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sumac and it's uses

 
kent smith
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Location: Pennsylvania
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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
 
Brice Moss
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I know they make me itch just walking close to them
 
Joshua Msika
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Location: Nova Scotia
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Depends on the sumac. Poison sumac (white berries, I think, we don't have any) is poisonous but staghorn sumac (red/pink berries, slightly furry) can be infused in cool water to make a drink that tastes like raspberry lemonade. I've tried it a few times, it tastes really good. Just wrap the clump of berries in a muslin cloth or something to avoid the hairs going everywhere in your drink. Or serve through a sieve.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Some people are allergic to all sumac relatives, even the non-poisonous kind.  Cashews are a sumac and some people are allergic to these nuts.

 
Cris Bessette
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machinemaker 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


I have staghorn sumac (rhus typhina) on my property, I too have made the "Sumac-aide" from the red seed clusters and it does taste pretty much like lemon-aide.
I also like it because of its tropical appearance, it adds a bit of an exotic look to the yard.
These are an "early colonizer" tree, they tend to pop up on road zides, under powerlines.etc. They might be good for naturalizing bare ground.

(Just make sure you don't confuse with the poisonous relative Toxicodendron vernix)
 
Cory Allan
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Location: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
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I planted staghorns in my north-facing side yard path along the garage on my previous property to provide a fast-growing (i.e. 1 summer season) woodland setting where grass once struggled to survive. For Canada, they provide a welcome tropical look. Just don't try it in the full sun - they'll take off with runners all through the grass as its their nature to form a brush understory for hillsides and woodland edges.  Trimming the suckers that shoot up is much more manageable in a shady area. 
 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
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Sumac tea from the red berries, is quite tasty and good source of vit c, if I remember correctly. 

It is possible to push in the pith out of the center of a fresh sumac branch, which might be useful if you needed a hollow tube of softwood for some purpose.  Native Americans use this technique to make the stem for Sacred Pipes.  White ash has a similar property, and is used in a similar way.  I have read that the inner bark of Sumac was also used in some of the kinikinik mixtures smoked in the Pipe. 

Sumac is good for environmental restoration - grows well on disturbed soils where erosion control is needed. 
 
richard valley
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We use Sumac on Shish kebob.
 
John Sizemore
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Location: West Virginia/ Dominican Republic
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We always put the seeds in our mouths and then spit out the seeds after the flavor was gone. This was in the fall after the turned bright red. Delicious.
 
richard valley
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This summer we bought about 60 plants and trees from the state, of these two were Sumac. Planted them late in the year hope they take hold and come on strong in spring. We buy Sumac from the Armenian store for use in the kitchen, be nice to have it growing.
 
Ken Anderson
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Location: Millinocket/St. Agatha, Maine
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When I was twelve, I found them to be quite useful as catapults. If you trim the branches from them and cut the top just above a "Y", you can bend the sumac over almost to the ground and it has quite a spring to it, catapulting sticks or other ammunition quite a distance. Other than that, I can't think of anything.
 
richard valley
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Ken, Years ago my friend Ronnie Butler, devised a bazooka, well, a big slingshot, made with 2"X4" materal. One boy would hold it aginst his sholder, there was also a forward handle. Ronnie held it first try, half bricks were the projectile. It was lucky he was wearing a helmet. The half brick hit in his head sending the helmet 50ft. He was not daunted, he offsat the uprights that held the inner tub and it worked.
Than when the invisible enemy jumped Cameron's fence and ran across the field to attack us waiting in the eucalypts grove by the irrigation ditch, we were able to mow them down.

You had to have been there Ken!
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
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I saw a Cherokee woman (North Carolina) on a television show using the ground dried berries as a seasoning on some fish. She was demonstrating some traditional cooking methods. I collected some of the seeds that grow here in SC to do the same but - as with so many of my projects - never got around to trying it.
 
richard valley
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In an earlier post: We use it on Shish Kebob. I got couple sumac plants from the state last year, things are starting to sprout at the lower ranch I hope they come back.
 
David Bates
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Location: Mountain Grove, Ontario, Canada
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I have the red, non-poisonous, lemonade kind. They grow like crazy around here, you find roots and shoots anywhere there isn't shade. The wood from sumac is beautiful. Like the catapult idea (an excellent one, thanks) you take small branches to bend into uprights for shelves or what not and they dry into really colourful pieces of knobby wood. I hang my keys on a piece of Sumac. So I guess that's another use for them
 
richard valley
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The dried casings aroun the seed have a lemony tast. We planted some 60 plants and trees we we purchased form the state as a wind break. I wasn't clever enought to make a plot plan so I would know which plants were which. I hope, we planted only two, to get them growing in large number. If they do well I can start more with cuttings.
 
August Salmon
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Jeanine Gurley wrote:I saw a Cherokee woman (North Carolina) on a television show using the ground dried berries as a seasoning on some fish. She was demonstrating some traditional cooking methods. I collected some of the seeds that grow here in SC to do the same but - as with so many of my projects - never got around to trying it.


Is Staghorn Sumac similar to the Sumac used in Middle Eastern cooking?
 
S Carreg
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I think it's the same sumac as in middle eastern cooking, in any case I use it in the same way, as a seasoning for all kinds of dishes, hummus labneh, meat dishes, it's really nice. sumac-aide and sumac tea are both delicious.
 
Melba Corbett
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Sucking the ascorbic acid off the berries or soaking them in water, straining and then gargling with the "lemonade" can often stop a sore throat in less than a minute. This is a good plant to dry berries for the winter for a source of Vit. C.
 
George Meljon
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We have both on our property. One of the poison ones is about 20 feet tall!

The white berries tell all you need to know to id a poisonous one. Beyond that, I found the leaflets to be a bit glossy, but most importantly non-serrated or smooth edged. That way you can ID when the fruit isn't visible.

They say they are only found in swamps, but that's not true totally. I have some wetter spots that they are on, but it's not swamp by any means. So definitely look for wet areas, but don't rule it out in a spot that is still dry most of the year.
 
Marsha Richardson
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The young growing shoots can be peeled and cooked like asparagus, pretty tasty and the more you cut them back the more shoots you get. The deer also browse them pretty heavily around here. We have staghorn, glossy and winged. None of the poison one here and I'm glad of it. You can harvest the bright red heads and try them for use in the winter for a big boost of vitamin C.
 
wayne stephen
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It is the same spice used in middle-eastern cooking . It is an ingredient in the spice mix za'atar. You know you're in a good arabic cafe if they have sumac in a cheese shaker on the tables. I learned about sumac when I was eleven and was reading "My Side of the Mountain". I went into the woods and brought some home to make Wild Pink Lemonade. My Syrian grandmothers' face lit up . I think she was proud of me . She knew all about sumac and was thrilled someone else in our family was catching on.
Some basic info from Wiki :
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumac
 
Jay Peters
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Great to know - this are absolutely everywhere in the Eastern (and southern I suppose) parts of Canada at least. They line highways from Ontario to the Atlantic and its great to know they are so useful! I see in the wiki that other varieties were used to make wax. I wonder if there's any chance the staghorn can be used to make a wax or a lacquer as well?

 
Gianni Henny
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richard valley wrote:The dried casings aroun the seed have a lemony tast. We planted some 60 plants and trees we we purchased form the state as a wind break. I wasn't clever enought to make a plot plan so I would know which plants were which. I hope, we planted only two, to get them growing in large number. If they do well I can start more with cuttings.


Sumac is very easy to identify, so you will be able to pick the two plants out. They will spread and form a thicket if you leave them unattended. They spread into our (overgrown) fenced in garden area, and have not wanted to leave without a fight. Their runners are long, and if you only dig up part they will just sprout a new shoot from the remaining root in the ground. We don't mow our field but a couple of times a year, and that is not enough to eradicate them FYI. We are in the Mid Atlantic region, it may be different for other climates.

Their new growth is soft (not woody), and kinda sappy (bleeding white if I remember right) if you break it. The leaf formation resemble black walnut, but they have more of a purple or reddish stem on the new growth. I too have heard that you can peel the soft growth and eat it, but have not tried more than a piece or two.

We have tried soaking the berries in water, but never know if we let them ripen enough or too much when we do it. It is okay, but mild in flavor.

Another interesting side note: I knew an old school trapper who used them to blacken his traps. I think he put the ripe sumac berries in a big pot with the traps and simmered them and soaked them for awhile before waxing the traps.

It may be a problem plant for some people, but it is not a bad plant I'm definitely going to save some dried berries for cooking after reading this thread.
 
mary yett
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The ascorbic acid (vitamin c) content of the berries has many practical cleaning applications. You can't beat cleaning supplies that are free and non toxic!

Sumac berry tea can be used like vinegar (but stronger) to remove lime (calcium) build up in tea kettles, etc. We have a high calcium content in our water where I live, so I throw a spoonful of dried berries into my tea kettle every couple of months. I let ii boil for 10 min or so, then pour out and rinse - it gets it nice and shiny clean. Steeping hot sumac tea in a stained tea pot will also get rid of most stains.

Many toilet bowl cleaners contain hydrochloric acid, which is nasty stuff. I find a strong sumac tea will work nearly as well to remove most toilet bowl stains. Use a toilet plunger to remove most of the water in the bowl, then squirt the sumac tea on the stained areas and let it sit for maybe 10-15 min, then scrub with a toilet brush. Repeat if necessary.

Ground up sumac berries also make great zatar seasoning for hummus, etc.
 
mary yett
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When processing sumac berries for use in tea or food, make sure to remove the little red fuzzy berries from the stems connecting them. Even a small amount of stem will impart a bitter taste.
 
Chrissy Lynch
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I've used sumac in a handful of garden-support applications. When fresh, even thicker trunks are flexible... I was able to weave a nice trellis. I used the thinner, twiggier pieces for bean and pea support. I have often wondered how sumac behaves in a 'coppicing' situation... How quickly it grows back(if at all) after being cut. I never went back to check the spot I cleared out to make trellis and have since moved.
 
Dale Hodgins
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We had an eroded hillside covered in sumac when I was a kid. We sometimes made the drink and sucked a few seeds.

My brother tapped some maple trees and then ran up the hydro bill as he boiled it down. I decided that this was too much work, so I brought some sap to a boil and added sumac to make sweet tea. It was very good. I haven't done it since.
 
Ann Torrence
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This site gives a recipe for staghorn sumac wine. The recipe calls for 5 lbs (2.e kg) of berries. Approximately how many pounds per plant? How does it do in a drier, western climate?

Edited to add: Sunset plant database suggests it is quite appropriate for the intermountain west. Low to moderate water, high mountain Sunset zones.

How easy is it to root from cuttings?
 
Jen Shrock
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Hi Mary Yett (I was with you in the Holzer seminar in Duluth). I have always heard the tea side of things. Thanks for the information on the cleaning uses and the tip about the stems. You have such a wealth of information!
 
Dennis Lanigan
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Sumacs are a great source of soulable tannins, or in other words great for making vegetable tanned leather. I make leather from deer hides as a hobby and plan on scrounging for sumac leaves next late summer. If anyone wants to sell/trade leaves to me and is in the area of the Twin Cities/W. Wisconsin please let me know.
 
mary yett
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good to hear from you, Jen.
that was a fantastic workshop with sepp holzer. He calls sumac the "American Lemonade Tree"
 
ben harpo
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I heard sumac was the traditional choice for making stems for corn cob pipes. Because it has nice round stems with a pithy center, and the pith can be poked out with a wire.
 
Judith Browning
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sumac leaves are always the first hint of fall for us.............the bees love the spring flowers, I use the leaves as a tannin source for my natural dye pots and when our children were growing up we made sun tea with the berries. The deer seem to like the young sprouts and not the larger plants........I like to let it grow (it just shows up along with persimmon trees) as an understory plant and lately have encouraged it around some gooseberries that I think were in too much sun.
...and I am always reminded of a Rousseau painting when I look at the leaves
sumac.JPG
[Thumbnail for sumac.JPG]
winged sumac
 
Judith Browning
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and the tall one with smaller seed heads.......that is also a winged sumac.
winged sumac2.JPG
[Thumbnail for winged sumac2.JPG]
 
Iain Adams
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In addition to the great culinary uses, staghorn, dwarf, and smooth sumac are all highly medicinal, and have a strong anti-microbial action, among other things. I've successfully used the bark against Staph and Strep infections, and there's a long and well documented history of other medicinal applications.

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.

On the primitive tech side, they make great friction fire spindles, and the pithy cores can easily be hollowed out for pipes, blow guns, straws for coal burning, etc.




 
D. Logan
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Jeanine Gurley wrote:I saw a Cherokee woman (North Carolina) on a television show using the ground dried berries as a seasoning on some fish. She was demonstrating some traditional cooking methods. I collected some of the seeds that grow here in SC to do the same but - as with so many of my projects - never got around to trying it.


I am pretty sure this was from this episode Bizarre Foods; Currently on Hulu.
 
Peter Ellis
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I have recently seen some examples of carved kusaks and spoons from sumac. Very beautiful wood.
 
Zach Elfers
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Staghorn and smooth sumac berries may be dried and then ground into a powder as a seasoning. The taste is reminiscent of paprika but with more of the tangyness associated with sumac. Quite delicious!
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Ok, so many people have mentioned the culinary uses and the hide tanning uses. We use the berries, the leaves and the wood is what makes the stem of the sacred pipe. I also use the wood to make some of my flutes. For all non poisonous species, you have to peel the bark and age the wood, this allows the irritant sap to mellow so you don't get itchy lips when smoking or playing a flute.
 
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