Sumac is an oriental spice recognizable by its garnet color, but above all by its spicy and vinegary taste! This spice has such a taste that it can be used instead of salt or lemon. Sumac has been a popular spice in cooking since ancient times, which also has many health benefits. Overview !
Where does sumac come from?
sumac is a berry that grows on a shrub of the Anacardiaceae family, which is mainly found around the Mediterranean. The name, which comes from the Arabic “sumaq”, which is probably derived from Syriac, means red; like the color that is so characteristic of this herb.
There are nearly 150 species of sumac, and not all of them are edible. Poison ivy is even dangerous, as contact with it can cause severe rashes. Rest assured, the variety used in the kitchen is harmless and, on the contrary, has many advantages†
The edible sumac berries are harvested in the east in August and September and then dried in the open air before being crushed. The result is a slightly moist powder, valued since ancient times for its exceptional taste. In reality, just a few pinches are enough to improve the taste of many foods, especially grilled meats and stews. In Iran, the main consumer, this spice is particularly popular, as in oriental cuisine in general. Sumac has its place in everyday life and on festive tables!
Hard to find sumac in western supermarkets, look more at oriental supermarkets – especially Egyptian and Lebanese – to enjoy its spicy, even vinegary and almost sweet taste. You will notice that it is mainly sold in the form of sachets. If sumac has no place in the West next to salt and pepper on the classic shelves, in the east it has been valued since ancient times† From the 1st century, from Turkey to Syria, the herb was used in the composition of many recipes!
Also read: Mace, an unknown spice
How do you use this herb in the kitchen?
In cooking, therefore, the taste of sumac makes it possible to use it as the main spice, as it can replace salt, but also lemon. The spice is so naturally rich in sodium, therefore, when using it, it is better to do without salt. Also, be careful not to overcook it and rather use it as a final seasoning, to make the most of its almost scintillating flavor. Its spicy and naturally salty taste makes it ideal for seasoning white meat, fish, grilled meats, beef meatballs and lamb skewers, omelets and other egg-based preparations, as well as vegetables.
On a tomato salad, instead of vinegar, sumac works wonders!
Its uses are therefore varied and sumac is even used in the preparation of oriental breads. You can also sprinkle this spice on your fruit salads, where the sweet and sour taste goes perfectly with sugar, but also on your chutneys. You would have understood: this spice makes it possible to flavor all kinds of dishes, sweet and savorythat’s why it’s so popular.
To store the sumac without changing its taste, we recommend that you leave it in its original packaging that you can close tightly, or choose an airtight container. This spice is best kept out of light and in a dry place.
Sumac can also be used to make a juice from the whole berries, dried and unground. All you have to do is soak them in hot water for over two hours before filtering everything. The preparation is ideal for making vinaigrettes and marinades. Given the many possibilities sumac offers in the kitchen, we understand the enthusiasm of Eastern countries for it. This red berry has also been prized since ancient times for its health benefits, which are numerous too!
Also read: Cardamom: a fragrant queen of spices from ancient Greece
The many health benefits of sumac
So we find traces of sumac from the 1st century in the writings of Pedanius Dioscorides, Greek physician and pharmacist. In his treatise called “Universal Medicine”, six founders of pharmacy, the man invokes sumac among hundreds of other plants whose medicinal uses were unknown to many before he wrote writings. As far as sumac is concerned, Pedanius Dioscorides has been recommending it since antiquity to use it for nausea, wounds and sore throats.
Indeed, the medicinal properties of this oriental berry are many. It is also credited with anti-cholesterol properties, as well as: antioxidantsfrom a long list:
Native American traditional medicine also uses it to soothe hemorrhoids.
On a daily basis, therefore, sumac would make it possible to cure many ailments:
- urinary disorders,
- leukorrhea (vaginal discharge),
- sore throats,
- treating wounds,
- soothes conjunctivitis,
- calm bowel disorders,
- and so forth
So many good reasons to use this spicy spice in the kitchen!
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