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The Story of Sumac

Sumac is one of those spices that catches your eye on our spice wall. Its gorgeous maroon color makes it stand out, but it’s a spice often overlooked in American recipes.

What is Sumac?

The spice called Sumac is actually a dried ground berry. Whole sumac berries have a tangy sour flavor--a mix between raspberries and lemons. When ground, salt is added to prevent fermentation adding a salty layer to their tart flavor. (Our ground sumac berries contain less than 6% salt by weight)

Where is Sumac From?

Sumac grows around the world and there are many different types. The Sumac on SpiceTopia’s spice wall is from Turkey. In the Middle East, sumac has been used as a spice, a dye, medicine, as well as a vital ingredient in tanning leather.

North America has its own native Sumac that thrives in the midwest. Its fuzzy purplish berries are also edible. The Native Americans used this variety of sumac for flavoring and especially liked to use these berries to make Sumacade, a drink similar to lemonade. See our recipe for Sumacade below!

How to Use Sumac?

Sumac’s earthy and tart flavor makes it a popular substitute for lemon, especially when the juiciness of lemon is not needed.

Across the Middle East, sumac is used much like a condiment or a finishing spice. You’ll find it sprinkled on fresh cold dishes such as hummus, salads, and baba ganoush. It’s also often used as the finishing touch to hot recipes such as grilled meats and rice dishes.

We find that sumac pairs well with yogurt, feta cheese, eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes, lamb, fish, lentils, and onions. Traditionally, sumac is paired with savory flavors, but we enjoy it with sweet dishes as well. A sprinkle over fruit salad or vanilla ice cream is a tasty surprise!

Other herbs and spices that are a nice complement to sumac include:

Sumac is found in our Za’atar blend. Its sour flavor creates a nice balance with the nutty, savory flavor of the sesame seeds and herbs found in this Za’atar.

One of our favorite Sumac Recipes is based on the sumac drink enjoyed by the American Indians.

If you have a favorite recipe that calls for sumac or questions on how to use it, let us know in the comments below.


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