Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sumac


Sumac (pronounced /ˈʃuːmæk/ or /ˈs(j)uːmæk/; also spelled sumach) is any one of approximately 250 species of flowering plants in the genus Rhus and related genera, in the family Anacardiaceae.

Sumacs grow in subtropical and temperate regions throughout the world, especially in North America.

Sumacs are shrubs and small trees that can reach a height of 1–10 metres (3.3–33 ft). The leaves are spirally arranged; they are usually pinnately compound, though some species have trifoliate or simple leaves. The flowers are in dense panicles or spikes 5–30 centimetres (2.0–12 in) long, each flower very small, greenish, creamy white or red, with five petals. The fruits form dense clusters of reddish drupes called sumac bobs. The dried drupes of some species are ground to produce a tangy purple spice.

Sumacs propagate both by seed (spread by birds and other animals through their droppings), and by new shoots from rhizomes, forming large clonal colonies.

Sumac Uses

Sumac is a dark maroon colored spice which is obtained by crushing the dried fruit of the non-toxic variety of Sumac plant (Rhus coriaria). The spice is traditional in Turkish, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines where it is used to add a mild acidity to a dish whether incorporated in the preparation or used as a finisher once the dish is complete. We love this spice on top of a bowl of hummus or lightly rubbed on a flank steak for a fruity brightness that pairs well with the meaty flavors. Traditional uses include blending with onions as they cook and sprinkling over the meat used for your favorite kebab.

Preparation and Storage

The berries can be dried, ground and sprinkled into the cooking, or macerated in hot water and mashed to release their juice, the resulting liquid being used as one might use lemon juice. Ground sumac keeps well if kept away from light and air.

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