Unrivaled fall and winter color. Sumac seed pods may be seen on plants far into the winter, giving texture and color long after everything else has turned brown. They attract a variety of winter birds, who use them as a superb emergency food source when other food sources are scarce. The seeds within the pod are very toxic if ingested so they are rarely eaten by humans or animals who might come into contact with the pods while they are still on the tree.
Sumacs are attractive small to medium-sized trees that can grow up to 20 feet tall with a trunk as wide as 6 feet. They have smooth gray bark that peels away from the trunk in large sheets. The leaves are odd shaped, with three sharp pointed leaflets that face forward on slender petioles. The flowers are greenish white with a yellow center, occurring in clusters at the end of short stalks during late spring before the fruit develops. The round red drupes split open with a papery covering that reveals four black seeds inside.
Sumacs are widely distributed across North America where they are commonly found along roads and trails, especially in areas where soil is exposed to sunlight such as prairies, savannas, and forests. Their thick wood is used for furniture making, tool handles, and even baseball bats.
In traditional Chinese medicine, sumac is said to relieve diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and urinary tract infections.
The flowers have the potential to assist wildlife by attracting and providing nectar to hummingbirds and insect pollinators. However, this is where mimosas' redeeming qualities end. With the abundance of blooms and the successful recruitment of pollinators, seed production is abundant. Unfortunately, most seeds are dispersed by animals who eat the pods or scatter them over large areas where they will grow without control. Mimosas are invasive species where they are planted for their floral display rather than their fruit. They can cause problems when they invade natural habitats by taking up space that could be used by native plants and reducing the amount of sunlight that reaches the ground.
Mimosas are cultivated for their attractive pink or white blossoms which attract bees and other insects which in turn help fertilize the flower petals. This attracts more pollinating insects which increase the chance of fruit set. However, most fruits are small and fall off the tree early so they do not provide food for birds during wintertime.
In conclusion, mimosas are useful because they offer wildlife benefits through their beautiful flowers but they also pose a threat due to their invasive nature where they replace native vegetation. When planting your yard, try to include both wildflowers that provide food for birds and those that don't to ensure no one group of plants is favored over another.
Terminal clusters of garnet, purse-shaped berries with a fine layer of fuzz characterize the tasty sumac (often gray). The leaves are long and slender, with a lance form. Long ovalish leaves and clusters of bright pink or scarlet smooth, hairless berries grow from the stems of the Brazilian Pepper. The seeds are covered with a prickly skin called "shaggy fur" that can irritate the skin and eyes if not washed off before eating.
The fruit is used in Middle Eastern dishes such as pilaf, while the leaves are added to salads. They have a lemony flavor that some people find pleasant but others find too strong for cooking.
Sumac comes from a Persian word meaning sour. The berries contain a chemical compound called uric acid which gives them their tartness. When the berries are dried they become powdery and more acidic.
People have been using sumac for food and medicine. The Indians used the crushed leaves to make a dye and the berries were used to make a red color. In modern times, chefs also use the leaves in salad dressings and spice blends because of their lemon flavor.
Edible sumac is becoming popular again because it's thought to be good for your health. The tart berries contain antioxidants and vitamin C. Also, the leaves are high in iron. Although edible sumac is very sour, the heat from other ingredients usually takes care of any bitterness.
Food Consumption The mature red berries of sumac bushes are the most widely consumed components of the plant. These sour and tart berries can be eaten raw or dry, but are most commonly used to make berry tea or sumac-ade. In Asia, the young leaves and shoots are also eaten as a vegetable.
The fruit is toxic if not thoroughly cooked because the skin contains high levels of oxalic acid. This prevents bacterial growth and preserves the color and flavor of the fruit. The seeds are also toxic if not processed properly because they contain calcium oxalate crystals. This same compound is responsible for the burning sensation that comes with rhubarb poisoning.
In general, sumac is a safe food to eat, but people who are allergic to pollen or other ingredients in birch trees should avoid eating wild sumac because its effects may be serious if not treated quickly. Pollen from birch trees contains substances that cause inflammation of the mouth and throat. Long-term exposure can lead to asthma-like symptoms.
People who have an allergy to sulfites should not eat fresh or dried plum because the fruits contain sulfites used during processing. Also, sulfur dioxide gas is released when cooking with salt pork or sausage because it is one of the ingredients used to preserve them.
Sumac's flavor is sometimes compared to the tartness of lemon, although the spice has a softer fruity flavour that balances acidity. Sumac spice's distinguishing features include a rich, purplish red hue. A coarse powder as opposed to a delicate powder, which comes from the seed pods only containing fiber and no oil or protein.
The berries are dried in the sun before being cracked open with a stone tool. The seeds are then removed and ground into a powder. The pulp is left in the shell to dry further and be ready for next year's harvest.
In addition to its use as a spice, sumac is also known for its medicinal properties. The leaves are astringent and have been used to treat diarrhea, dysentery, and urinary tract infections. The root is considered toxic if eaten in large quantities.
Sumac can be found in most large supermarkets today, usually in the ethnic food section. It can also be ordered online at many sites. Be sure to buy sumac that has the purple dye still present; otherwise, it won't work as a spice!
Sumac has several varieties, each with their own unique flavor. The three main types are rock sumac, soft sumac, and bird's-eye sumac.