Thursday, 5 October 2017

ALL ABOUT SUMAC

“Even just a few spices or ethnic condiments that you can keep in your pantry can turn your mundane dishes into a culinary masterpiece.”- Marcus Samuelsson 

Sumac (Assyrian Neo-Aramaic: summāqāʾ [=red, red shift, turning red], Arabic: سمّاق‎‎ summāq; also spelled sumach, sumaq) is any one of about 35 species of flowering plants in the genus Rhus and related genera, in the family Anacardiaceae. The dried and powdered fruits are used as a spice in Middle Eastern cuisine. Sumacs grow in subtropical and temperate regions throughout the world, especially in East Asia, Africa and North America.

Sumacs are shrubs and small trees that can reach a height of 1–10 m. 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 cm 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 crimson 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.

The fruits (drupes) of the genus Rhus (for example, R. coriaria) are ground into a reddish-purple powder used as a spice in Middle Eastern cuisine to add a tart, lemony taste to salads or meat. In Arab cuisine, it is used as a garnish on meze dishes such as hummus and tashi, and is added to salads in the Levant. In Iranian, Afghan and Kurdish cuisines, sumac is added to rice or kebab. In Jordanian and Turkish cuisines, it is added to salad-servings of kebab and lahmajoun. Rhus coriaria is used in the spice mixture za’atar. 

Za’atar
Ingredients

1/4 cup sumac
2 tablespoons dried thyme leaves
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons dried marjoram
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon coarse salt 


Method
Grind the sesame seeds in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Sprinkle it on bread, dips, dressings, meat, vegetables, rice, potatoes, pasta, soups, and more.


In North America, the smooth sumac (R. glabra) and the staghorn sumac (R. typhina) are sometimes used to make a beverage termed “sumac-ade”, “Indian lemonade”, or “rhus juice”. This drink is made by soaking the drupes in cool water, rubbing them to extract the essence, straining the liquid through a cotton cloth, and sweetening it. Native Americans also use the leaves and drupes of the smooth and staghorn sumacs combined with tobacco in traditional smoking mixtures.

Sumac was used as a treatment for half a dozen different ailments in medieval medicine, primarily in Middle-Eastern countries (where sumac was more readily available than in Europe). An 11th-century shipwreck off the coast of Rhodes, excavated by archaeologists in the 1970s, contained commercial quantities of sumac drupes. These could have been intended for use as medicine, as a culinary spice, or as a dye. Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) is a powerful antioxidant, with ORAC rating over 1500 μmol TE/g.

Some species formerly recognised in Rhus, such as poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans, syn. Rhus toxicodendron), poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum, syn. Rhus diversiloba) and poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix, syn. Rhus vernix), have the allergen urushiol and can cause severe allergic reactions. Poison sumac may be identified by its white drupes, which are quite different from the red drupes of true Rhus species. Cases of allergy involving pure Rhus coriaria have not been documented in medical literature.

In the language of flowers, sprigs of Rhus carry the meaning: “Touch me not”. Flowerheads or seed clusters incorporated in bouquets imply: “If you get to know me, you shall love me.”

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.

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