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Author Topic: Now is the time to Gather Sumac for Tea & Spice Use  (Read 1117 times)

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Offline Lady Beetle

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Now is the time to Gather Sumac for Tea & Spice Use
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2014, 06:47:36 AM »
Now is the Time to Gather Sumac for Tea & Spice Use

By Herman Beck-Chenoweth


Sumac is a common, well-known and easily recognized feature of the rural North American landscape. These small trees with thick twigs and an almost tropical appearance are familiar to most country dwellers. Their shape and large cone-like, dark red berry clusters are distinctive and their bright red autumn foliage is hard to forget. Yet few people know that these little trees have provided a delicious and refreshing summer drink throughout much of the world for thousands of years.


Sumac forms large patches called clones; what looks like many trees or shrubs is actually a single plant, like a patch of rhubarb or asparagus. Large clones are tallest in the center, getting gradually shorter towards the outside, creating the illusion of a gentle hill where there is none. In such a sumac clone the trees often have the habit of bearing leaves only at the canopy, so that when one ventures underneath he is struck with the impression of being under a gentle dome painstakingly coaxed into existence by some master gardener.

All of the true (edible) Sumacs have dark reddish or purple fruit borne in erect, tight clusters. (On some of the western species, the clusters are pretty small and may not be as tight as on the eastern species, but they are still distinctly red.) The surface of the fruit is fuzzy or grainy.

The seed heads are easily harvested by using pruners to nip off the Drupes.  The trees are low growing but you may need a short ladder to reach the best heads.  For the best taste and most vitamin C berries should be harvested as soon as they are TOTALLY dark red.  Rain washes out the flavor so take advantage of a cool and dry day as soon as the heads are ready. If storage space is a problem you can always thresh the seeds off of the seed heads and store in a container.

For cold tea pour one quart of water over 4-5 seed heads (or 5 TBS of berries off the seed heads) and allow to sit at room temperature for a day or so.  Every time you pass by the container invert it.  After 12 - 24 hours put it in the fridge and when cool serve over ice.  It will be very tart and refreshing.  If it is too tart for you sweeten it to taste with stevia, honey, maple syrup or cane sugar.  If using the berries once you can refill your container and make another batch that is nearly as good.

If you are the fussy sort you may want to pour your tea through some cheese cloth.  You can also make a nice hot spicy tea that is perfect for holiday celebrations.  I'll post that recipe later.

If you don't want to or can't harvest your own Sumac my Wildcrafted Sumac berries are available from Herm and Hannah's Herb Department at the Back 40 General Store.  Mediterranean Sumac Seasoning Powder is also available there as well.

Click to Visit the Back 40 General Store Herbs Department:
Dianne