Sumac is a piquant, lemony spice, associated with Middle Eastern food and widely used in Israeli cooking.
Sumac comes from the Arabic word 'summāq' meaning red and is derived from the berries of the flowering shrub in the genus Rhus, from the family of Anacardiaceous. Sumacs are grown in temperate climates and thrive in North Africa and the Middle East.
The sumac berries are small, russet coloured, covered in hairs and appear in dense clumps on the bush. Once picked, the berries are dried and crushed to produce the coarse, dark reddish -purple spice.
In Middle Eastern cooking and particularly Lebanese cuisine, sumac is used as a souring agent instead of lemon or limes. The juice can be extracted from the berries and are used when making dressings and marinades and the powered spice can be used when grilling meats, fish or vegetables.
The health benefits of the sumac berries include diuretic properties and reducing fever. They are often used to relieve stomach upsets and bowel complaints by making a sour drink from them. The Botanist and herbalist John Gerade (1597) said of Sumac “The seed of Sumach eaten in sauces with meat, stoppeth all manner of fluxes of the belly."
recipe for tomato salad with sumac, walnuts & pomegranate kernels
adapted from Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour
500g tomatoes (cherry, plum or mixed)
1 small red onion, sliced
pomegranate kernels1 bunch mint, leaves picked & finely chopped
for the salad dressing
2 tsp sumac
4 tbsp. pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 tbsp olive oil
sea salt & ground black pepper
fresh oregano leaves to serve
cut the tomatoes in half and place them on the serving plate, slice the onion finely and add to the tomatoes
in a separate bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients together
drizzle the dressing over the tomatoes, then add the walnuts, pomegranate kernels & oregano leaves
sprinkle a little sumac over the salad before serving