It has a tangy, lemon-like flavor, it is rich in some health-loving nutrients, it lowers cholesterol, it reduces bone loss, it stabilizes blood sugar, and does even more! Its name is sumac. Let`s discuss it!
Sumac is any flowering plant that belongs to the Rhus genus or the Anacardiaceae family, which often consist of small shrubs and sumac trees that produce bright red fruits known as drupes. These plants are grown around the world, and they are particularly common in East Asia, Africa, and North America. There are variations such as the staghorn sumac, African sumac, smooth sumac, and fragrant sumac. Sumac spice is derived from the dried and ground berries of a sumac plant, Rhus coriaria. This spice has a unique taste that can be described as tangy and slightly fruity, a bit like lemon. The sumac plant is known for its vibrant red berries (drupes). These berries become fully ripe in the fall, however, they gradually develop a darker red hue in the winter. They are an important source of nutrition for wildlife when food becomes scarce. Sumac has been used for thousands of years to add to the flavor and color of dishes. It was also used medicinally and brewed into a tea to soothe sore throats, promote breast milk production, and relieve gastrointestinal issues.
What are the Benefits of Sumac Spice?
It Regulates Blood Sugar
High blood sugar can have a severe health impact, if not dealt with. It is sometimes the cause of headaches, fatigue, frequent urination, and increased thirst. It could even have more terrible consequences such as nerve damage, kidney problems, and impaired wound healing. Sumac helps to maintain normal blood sugar levels. It also helps prevent insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone that transports sugar from the bloodstream to the tissues.
It Contains Antioxidants
Antioxidants are powerful compounds that fight free radicals to prevent cell damage and protect against chronic disease. Sumac contains antioxidants, hence, it neutralizes free radicals and keeps the body healthy.
It Reduces Bone Loss
Ever heard of osteoporosis? It is a common condition characterized by weak, brittle bones caused by bone loss and an increased risk of fracture. Sumac balances certain proteins involved in bone metabolism. This makes it effective in reducing bone loss.
It Relieves Muscle Pain
Because of its rich antioxidant content, sumac reduces inflammation to provide pain relief.
It Reduces Cholesterol
High cholesterol is one of the risk factors for heart disease. When cholesterol builds up inside the arteries, it causes them to narrow and harden, placing a strain on the heart muscle and making it harder to push blood through. This is not a mild condition. Sumac lowers cholesterol to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Sumac Spice Recipes
Wondering what to do with sumac? Here are some suggestions:
- Squash toast with feta, sumac, and poached egg
- Persian lentil soup
- Chickpea salad
- Roasted chicken with sumac and lemons
- Lebanese fattoush salad
You may consider adding sumac spice to salads, marinades, roasted vegetables, and meat dishes to relish its unique taste.
Sumac Spice and Turmeric: Are there any Differences?
Both spices: sumac spice and turmeric have powerful health effects. Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties; sumac spice has similar benefits. Both spices also add much flavor to dishes.
The sumac taste is quite unique, and different from turmeric`s. Turmeric has a bitter, slightly pungent flavor that tastes quite lovely in meals. Sumac, on the other hand, is more lemony and tangy: a reason lemon zest mixed with black pepper could be used as a sumac spice substitute.
What about Sumac Spice and Poison Sumac?
Poison sumac, also known as thunderwood, is a type of woody shrub that belongs to the same family of plants as poison ivy. Although their names are similar, both belong share only few similarities.
Unlike sumac spice, poison sumac is not edible and can actually be extremely dangerous to health, as its name implies. Poison sumac contains a compound called urushiol, and it irritates the skin and mucus membranes, causing what is called a poison sumac rash. The compound can even enter the lungs when the leaves are burned, causing pain and difficulty in breathing, and this can be fatal. Sumac spice, on the other hand, can be safely consumed by most people. The next section has its few side effects.
Side Effects of Sumac Spice
There aren`t many of them, really. We will discuss the few that have been reported. Sumac belongs to the same family of plants as cashews and mango, so it is advised that people who are allergic to those fruits consult with their doctors before consuming sumac spice.
Negative symptoms such as itching, swelling or hives may be experienced. If they are, consumption should be stopped, and medical attention should be sought immediately.
If you take any medications to help lower blood sugar or cholesterol levels, then you may need to discuss with your doctor before consuming sumac spice. Remember that sumac spice decreases blood sugar and reduce cholesterol, so there may be interactions.
- Sumac is a dioecious plant: male and female flowers develop on separate plants.
- Its flowers can be white, green, or red, arranged in the spikes (panicles) on top of the branches.
- Sumac blooms early in summer and attracts bees that pollinate its flowers.
- Sumac is a perennial plant that can survive from 30 to 50 years in the wild.
- Goats strip the bark of sumac and prevent the growth of new shoots. They are used to eradicate sumac from areas where they grow.
- Over 30 species of birds feed on the sumac fruit and facilitate dispersal of seed. Sumac also propagates through root sprouting.
- Leaves of sumac are used as a source of black ink.
- The pigment obtained from the wood of sumac can be used for the coloring of various items in the industry of textile, toys, and paper.
- The bark and leaves of sumac are a rich source of tannins that are used for the tanning of leather.
- Stems of sumac have soft central parts that can be easily removed. This characteristic makes sumac fit for the manufacture of tobacco pipes.
- Native Americans used sumac fruit to make a tasty beverage called Indian lemonade or sumac-ade.
- Native Americans smoked cigarettes made of dried leaves and fruit of sumac.
- Sumac grows as a tall shrub or small tree. It reaches a height of 3.3 to 32.6 feet.
- Sumac has antler-like branches that can be smooth or hairy. The bark is covered with fine hairs that have a velvety texture.
- Herbivores don`t eat sumac because of the hairs on the branches and bark.
- Sumac has pinnate leaves that have 11 to 13 oval leaflets with serrated edges. These leaves are spirally arranged on the branches.
Did you Know about Sumac Tea?
Here`s how to make it:
- Take 3-5 bright red berry clusters on a dry day
- Crush them lightly with your hands.
- Put the berries in a pitcher and fill with cold water.
- Allow the berries infuse for a couple hours or a couple days, depending on your taste.
- Strain through a coffee filter or cheesecloth because some varieties of sumac have irritating, tiny hairs that may not be cool to ingest.
- Once the tea is strained, sip and enjoy it. It`s one of the best pink lemonades you can find.