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What is it and where can I find it?

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  1. Various varieties of sumac grow through out the world. From a culinary perspective, the ground fruit is used extensively in Middle Eastern cooking. The flavor is similar to a mild lemon juice or vinegar but less acidic.

    You should be able to find it in any Middle Eastern grocery. Spice companies such as Penzeys carries it. On occasion I see it at natural foods stores that have a good bulk spice selection.

    2 Replies
      1. re: shaebones

        It's more like powder (it's the ground up dried fruit of the plant) and is a deep red-ish brown colour.

        1. re: nofunlatte

          +1 (or actually 2)

          I've ordered from penzey's many times. They are reliable and fair about pricing, imo.

          And. it is very lemony tasting. I often use it in place of lemon in savory dishes.

          1. re: thymetobake

            Yup, get mine from Penzey's as well. Love the tart taste - adds a nice tang to rubs, etc.

        2. It's also the primary component of Za'atar.

          7 Replies
          1. re: ferret

            My za'atar is mostly thyme, secondly sesame seeds. Sumac is not anywhere near primary.

            1. re: ferret

              Za'atar is generally composed mostly of herbs (thyme, oregano and/or marjoram) & sesame seeds with a small amount of salt. Sumac is a component, and some regions add more than others, but it's by no means the primary ingredient.

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                It's the primary ingredient in the Penzey's version of it. Mr. Rat got me a box of Penzey's spices for Christmas and among them was a four ounce (!!) bag of the Zatar. Now THAT'S gonna take a while to use up.


                1. re: ratgirlagogo

                  Wow. It's unusual to use that much sumac - the tartness/astringency can overwhelm the other flavors. But as long as you're enjoying it, that's all that matters!

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    I'm kind of not enjoying it honestly, because of all the sumac. That's why I said it's going to take a while to use it up.

                    1. re: ratgirlagogo

                      Maybe you can doctor it up to make it more palatable - add more of everything else to balance it out?

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        Yeah, seriously. I have actually been rationing my za'atar with a good balance because all I can get locally is "green za'atar" - thyme, sesame seeds, no sumac. Maybe you can find some to balance yours out?

            2. Readily available in Middle Eastern shops. And, presumably, online spice suppliers who deliver to whereever you are in the world.

              It's a powder made from the berries. Very citrussy. I sprinkle it on salads, like fattoush, as well as n ingredient in other Eastern Mediteranean dishes.

              1. Sumac is the powder made from dried and ground sumac berries. Ranging from dark red to almost purple in color, the taste is generally sour with undertones of wine and fermentation. Lemon is often suggested as a substitute and while sumac does have fruity elements, it is not as sharp as lemon juice.

                If you have grocery stores catering to the Middle Eastern community, you should be able to find sumac there. Otherwise a high-end grocer or spice store will be able to supply you.

                1. Can the North American staghorn sumac berries be used interchangeably with the middle eastern variety? I've tasted the clumps of berries on my property and they are sour, but a little hairy.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: earthygoat

                    Not sure? Be careful with that one. Smooth Sumac is the most common variety in the US. Shorter than Staghorn.

                    1. re: earthygoat

                      The fellow who writes this blog is very knowledgeable about wild edibles. This link is really interesting:


                      1. re: earthygoat

                        Yes, I have used staghorn and smooth sumac both dried and then powdered, and fresh (which is dry on the bush) to make drinks, and wild fermented with sugar into a light, white wine. All the red drupe/berry sumac are edible.

                        Harvest when it has been clear for awhile. Harvesting just after, or even a few days after rain, and much less acidic flavor. Also best time to harvest is late summer to late fall. Once it turns brown in late fall and winter, it isn't worth harvesting.

                      2. I describe sumac as having a pickle flavor.

                        1. I first had sumac on rice (long grain, maybe basmati) at a tiny hole-ithe-wall middle eastern restaurant, they had it on the tables as a condiment and I fell in love with it. I've been trying to include it more and more into our diet. I can always find it at international markets in the Middle Eastern aisle.

                          1. Not availble in the markets w/in a 10 mile radius of me. Ill order it through Penzy's. Made the spinach salad from "Jerusulem" w/o the sumac. It was still amazingly good. Licked the salad bowl. ;)

                            1. In addition to salads, sumac is excellent sprinkled on creamy and/or dairy items such as soft cheeses or pureed soups. A friend of mine has an amazing recipe for goats yogurt milk and roasted eggplant soup sprinkled with sumac that I find really excellent.