• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • paul wheaton
  • Mike Jay
  • Anne Miller
  • Jocelyn Campbell
stewards:
  • Devaka Cooray
  • Joseph Lofthouse
  • Burra Maluca
garden masters:
  • Dave Burton
  • Pearl Sutton
gardeners:
  • James Freyr
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Daron Williams

sumac and its uses  RSS feed

 
Posts: 17
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
May I present Tiger Eye sumac, exotic looking form and phenomenal fall color. (You don't have to eat everything you plant, some thing are just really nice for looking at)

tiger-eye.jpg
[Thumbnail for tiger-eye.jpg]
 
gardener
Posts: 5464
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
735
books chicken dog duck fish forest garden fungi homestead hugelkultur hunting pig
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Now that is a worthy Sumac variety.
 
Posts: 23
Location: Schoharie County, NY
1
chicken forest garden hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Iain Adams wrote:
It grows rampantly around the edges of my young food forest, so I pollard them to feed goats and keep em from encroaching. They are a great and rapidly regenerative fodder source, and according to my goats, are just about the tastiest thing ever. They'll completely strip and debark them in minutes, turning them into EXCELLENT rocket stove fuel. I've also had some success using them as a trellis for vertical growers around the edges of my fields.



Iain, could you please give some more details about pollarding your sumacs? You say the grow back rapidly, but...how rapidly? How frequently do you cut them back?

I just bought 2 acres and the hedgerow between the property lines is filled with sumac. I'd like to pollard/coppice the wood that has spread a little too far in the wrong section of the yard. Definitely don't want to take it all out, I like watching the birds eat the drupes. I'm hoping to integrate them more succinctly into my master plan...as soon as I have one, that is.
 
pollinator
Posts: 3738
Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
91
bee books chicken dog duck fungi solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Jessica Hill wrote:
Iain, could you please give some more details about pollarding your sumacs? You say the grow back rapidly, but...how rapidly? How frequently do you cut them back?

I just bought 2 acres and the hedgerow between the property lines is filled with sumac. I'd like to pollard/coppice the wood that has spread a little too far in the wrong section of the yard. Definitely don't want to take it all out, I like watching the birds eat the drupes. I'm hoping to integrate them more succinctly into my master plan...as soon as I have one, that is.



I can't tell you how quickly they grow back - just too quickly if you want them gone! Between now and early spring is the time to do it. You could experiment by pollarding 1/5 this winter and assume a 5 year rotation. You'll get an idea how quickly they grow back by this fall. It will also depend on what you plan to use them for. Not sure which will be produced first - wood for fuel or drupes for feed. Also, it does make good fodder for sheep, goat, and cows even.
 
gardener
Posts: 593
Location: Equatorial tropics
70
books forest garden
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
GREAT thread! I'm going to have to dry and use some of the wood out front.

One more excellent use for sumacs: when in bloom they attract pollinators like crazy:

http://www.floridasurvivalgardening.com/2014/08/an-unexpected-discovery-about-humble.html

I found out earlier this year that they created a bee feeding frenzy. It was like walking under a buzzing transformer!

Another use for sumacs I've found: they're good chop and drop. Since they pop up everywhere, I just keep cutting them and feeding them to the soil fungi. They're also decent fuel for a rocket stove.
 
Posts: 20
Location: an hour south of Atlanta, Georgia
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The upright type of berry heads make a beautiful dried ornamental display for fall, esp. if in tall clay vases. The ones grown in open full sun should have brighter red berries - if they are cut quickly enough. They should remain a fairly bright red til just past Christmas, depending on the heat and humidity of your house or where it is placed.
 
Jessica Hill
Posts: 23
Location: Schoharie County, NY
1
chicken forest garden hugelkultur
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've been poking around on Permies (which leads to Google, which leads to somewhere else, which leads to somewhere else, which leads miraculously back to someone referencing Paul's YouTube Channel...which makes me go "oh yea! I was reading something on Permies." Does this happen to anyone else??!?!) and really like the idea of dead hedges. I intend to experiment with them at some point. I think the sumac's ability to regrow will really help in that.

Everyone around here, in Central NY ,doesn't like the sumac, they call it a weed, nuisance, invasive, etc. I always thought it was pretty and unusual and that I could manage to deal with it's "poorer qualities" in a garden. But now I see it for it's Permie qualities
- stablizing banks, no wonder it likes the sides of our highways!
- pioneer species,
- fibrous matting root system
- leaf shape and size
- pollinators and birds love it
- edible
- craftable
I know I've not found them all and that's a good thing! Mainly because I have a few in our new property.

So now I'm looking forward to watching how the sumac's grow and change my landscape. I can't wait for our move, I can't wait for spring, I can't wait!

I also think I may have become addicted to Permies...I hope there's a 12 step program for this.
 
Posts: 408
Location: Georgia
8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have some Sumacs in my yard. The swirly ones in the foreground. I thought
they looked good with my oak leaf hydrangeas so when more popped up I left
them. Those are the little stubs visible in the picture. That was 3 years ago and
the deer won't let them get out of the ground good before they start rubbing on them.
image.jpg
[Thumbnail for image.jpg]
 
pollinator
Posts: 570
Location: SW Missouri, Zone 7a
85
books chicken dog duck food preservation forest garden goat homestead cooking trees woodworking
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

kent smith wrote:are there any good uses for sumac trees? one amish nieghbor told me that the smoke from them is toxic. I saw that they are related to poison ivey. anyone know sumacs?
kent



Everyone seems to know that sumac makes good "lemonade" -- something I discovered many decades ago and still make as often as I can -- and some have mentioned the lemon-pepper-like spice you can make from grinding the dried seeds. However, there are a couple of common mistakes in this thread that may cause some people some confusion if this is their first attempt to use these wild foods. #1, the acid coating on the outside of the seeds is NOT ascorbic acid but malic acid. I don't know how much difference that makes as far as overall nutritional content goes, but you are not getting vitamin C from the berries. Malic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid, which, among other things, means it is probably good for your skin (it's used in a lot of creams and anti-aging skin products) and MAY have benefits to people suffering from fibromyalgia or certain heart conditions. The down side is that it can make your skin sensitive to sunlight and can cause mild itching or rash, diarrhea or nausea in some people. I imagine you would have to consume a lot of it for that though. I have been drinking it for years with no untoward effects. (But then, I am also not allergic to poison ivy. I could literally eat the stuff.)

The second thing is that there seems to be some confusion over which species to use. Except for the obvious white-berried poison sumac (which has a pretty limited natural range in this country), you can use any of them and, in fact, staghorn sumac is actually the least flavorful of all the possible choices. Shining, smooth and winged sumac are good, and usually much more common than the staghorn, but to my mind, the fragrant sumac makes the best lemonade (kind of an intense cranberry-lemonade taste). The fragrant sumac grows as a low, multi-branched shrub with rounded berry clusters rather than the upright conical types. We have them literally everywhere on our land. The name comes from the very fragrant leaves -- which also look atypical for most sumacs, resembling poison oak or poison ivy a bit more.

I would also like to add a vote in favor of using the wood. Sumac wood, when dried, is about the whitest, finely grained wood imaginable. It is never very large and not strong, but for decorative items, it is really quite attractive. Pushing the pith out to make flutes, tubes and natural straws are all useful, but you can then cut those tubes into small pieces for making decorative beads as well. If you want to try a natural toothbrush, sumac makes an excellent tooth stick with very fine bristles when chewed to shape. The flavor is nice and sort of spicy too. I think it is my favorite tasting of all the woods I have tried (though dogwood is still my preference overall for it's antibacterial properties.) I might refrain from using sumac as a tooth stick though if you have sensitivities to poison ivy relatives. It's probably okay, but I wouldn't want to trigger an allergic reaction!
 
Jessica Hill
Posts: 23
Location: Schoharie County, NY
1
chicken forest garden hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Wow Deb, thank you.

That is truely amazing information. I like the idea of pushing the pith out to make tubes and decorative beads.

Do you think letting my dog chew on a smaller piece of sumac would be similar to a person using a toothstick? I think that may be in our future as well. She does love a good stick to chew.
 
Deb Stephens
pollinator
Posts: 570
Location: SW Missouri, Zone 7a
85
books chicken dog duck food preservation forest garden goat homestead cooking trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Jessica Hill wrote:Wow Deb, thank you.

That is truely amazing information. I like the idea of pushing the pith out to make tubes and decorative beads.

Do you think letting my dog chew on a smaller piece of sumac would be similar to a person using a toothstick? I think that may be in our future as well. She does love a good stick to chew.



Jessica,
Yes, sumac is a truly amazing and beautiful plant! Here is a photo of the fragrant sumac species we have in such abundance here. Such a pretty shrub. With those red berries against the deep green foliage, it always makes me think of Christmas in July.



As for using as pet chew sticks... I don't believe dogs and cats are sensitive to urushiol, the substance in poison ivy and other Toxicodendron species (poison ivy used to be called rhus radicans but the name was recently changed to Toxicodendron radicans. Other members such as poison oak have also been updated). I have 9 dogs (down from 13 as old age has slowly crept into our pack) and they all chew on sticks of every sort. I have seen mine chew sumac stems as well, since it is everywhere, and never noticed anyone having problems, however, I wouldn't want to be the one to say, yes, let your pup eat sumac sticks. I think if you plan to do it on a regular basis, you should probably ask a vet first to be safe.
 
Posts: 299
Location: North Central New York
12
bee chicken food preservation forest garden tiny house woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have always thought of this plant as a scourge and trying to clear some land, chopped down a whole patch of it. The patch said, "Thank you very much," and is even thicker than ever after leaving it for a couple years. Now that I have read all of these great ideas I am making a list to keep. Who knew!? I shall see it as more as a largess now.

Here's another use -- They spread through underground runners which will turn at an almost perfect right angle to send up the trunk. The runners are only a few inches deep below the surface. I live near a Renaissance Faire and saw a craftsman there who used the natural shape of the young tree to make walking sticks. Knowing how they grow it was clear to me that he had to have pulled them up to keep that shape.

For those who express concern about them "taking," I would say don't worry. Yes, deer like them and they are important browse for them in the winter. Alpacas like them, too.

And if anyone would like some, come on over to my place and help yourself.
 
Jessica Hill
Posts: 23
Location: Schoharie County, NY
1
chicken forest garden hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Anyone want to post a 'how-to' of removing the pith from twigs and branches? My Googling is turning up mostly citrus related info and references to making canabis oil...which I'm definitely sure is NOT what I want.
 
Deb Stephens
pollinator
Posts: 570
Location: SW Missouri, Zone 7a
85
books chicken dog duck food preservation forest garden goat homestead cooking trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Jessica Hill wrote:Anyone want to post a 'how-to' of removing the pith from twigs and branches? My Googling is turning up mostly citrus related info and references to making canabis oil...which I'm definitely sure is NOT what I want.



Jessica,
It is relatively easy to pith the twigs with a sharp wire if the sections are short, but you could use an ice pick, sharp nail or any other rigid spike-like thing. I have even used thorns when out in the woods and nothing else was handy. Heating the wire or sharpened rod sometimes helps, also -- especially if you want to do a longer tube and the pith gets stubborn about halfway through. (It burns it out instead of just pushing it through.) If all else fails, try a drill and bit. (But clamp the twig down first for stability.)
 
gardener
Posts: 1870
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
239
forest garden urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This year is the first time we managed to get all the way from harvesting the sumac berries to a jar full of the ground spice. Considering the size of jar, it took a long time but I think it will turn out to be worth it to have on hand for cooking with.

Someone earlier in this thread posted about eating the young shoots like asparagus. Does anyone have more information on this? There's a lot of sumac growing wild in this area and so moving on from the berries to other parts of the plant feels like a natural progression as I slowly expand my wild harvesting efforts.  Does it taste like asparagus?
 
Posts: 47
3
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We use the flowers of the red, furry kind in the smoker for our bees...  makes them pleasantly dopey, and wears off in ten to twenty minutes...  grows like mad around here.
 
Posts: 87
Location: Fair Play, Northern California
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I was considering planting at least one sumac in my (future) hedge.  The hedge is to foil deer.  I am willing to fence young plants but want mature plants to survive without fencing.  Am I expecting too much?
 
Casie Becker
gardener
Posts: 1870
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
239
forest garden urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
They are well adapted to survive regular browsing by deer. We have one of the largest (if not the largest) urban herds of deer in this area and still have huge amounts of wild sumac all over the place. They're lovely plants all around, from spring flowers to fall color in the landscape and delicious treats in the kitchen. I'm still hoping someone here shares more about eating the shoots as a vegetable.
 
Posts: 54
Location: Yakima, WA
7
books chicken food preservation forest garden greening the desert trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The shoots are delicious! I live surrounded by smooth sumac. The best ones are first year shoots on old stems, but you can eat the tips of existing branches as they start growing in spring. Make sure to only harvest the fresh, green shoots. If you look at the bottom of the shoot after you cut it and it has already started developing a white pithy center, cut some more off until the inside of the shoot is all green. Peel off the outer layer (undeveloped bark) and you can just pop em in your flavor hole and enjoy. You could also steam em, lightly sautee them, or stir fry them. People say they taste like asparagus, but I haven't found that to be true. They're still tasty, and a good treat!

*Edit to add* I think someone mentioned it, but once the leaves have turned red they make a lovely addition to tobacco, if you're into that sort of thing. Kind of sweet and aromatic. I also tend to add mullein, yarrow, white sage and red osier dogwood bark, for a delicious smoke that cuts down on my tobacco usage until I grow the cajones to quit.  
 
Jane Reed
Posts: 87
Location: Fair Play, Northern California
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks, Casey.  In the spring I'll be able to get a California native variety, rhus trilobata.  Local chapter of the Calif Native Plant Society will hold its semiannual plant sale and one of the vendors stocks this plant so I'll be able to request they bring it.  

I was also glad to learn of its many other uses.  I have planted fruit trees and shrubs but I have to stop putting in things that bear nothing more than sugar sacks. Sugar is the devil. 😂
 
Valerie Dawnstar
Posts: 299
Location: North Central New York
12
bee chicken food preservation forest garden tiny house woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Just wanted to point out that we seem to be talking about several different varieties here.  We have staghorn sumac here in the northeast.  It is abundant, deer love it since it holds it's fruit through the winter, but it is not particularly fragrant and I have not yet attempted to use it for spice, 'lemonade' or eating the shoots.  Like I said earlier, I have cleared a bunch of it and it doesn't - to me - have any appeal as a food.  Anyone else have any experience with staghorn sumac?
 
Casie Becker
gardener
Posts: 1870
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
239
forest garden urban
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Find a stand of the Staghorn that still has red berries (important that they be red and not faded to brown). Rub your fingers across them and then taste your finger tips. I don't know where I picked up this impression, but I'm fairly certain the variety around here is also staghorn sumac. As far as I've been able to tell there are many varieties of sumac, but the important differences are only between the varieties with white berries and those with red. All the red varieties are closely related to each other.

The species with white berries are related to poison ivy and oak. They also cause a contact rash just like poison ivy does. Here's a good link with pictures about what you DON'T want to eat. http://www.poison-ivy.org/poison-sumac It also grows in very different conditions than the edible varieties, so even if you were trying something other than the berries it would be easy to avoid the poisonous species.
 
Men call me Jim. Women look past me to this tiny ad:
One million tiny ads for $25
https://permies.com/t/94684/million-tiny-ads
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!