Browsing the archives for the sumac tag.

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The Wild Pantry: Sumac Seasoning

Raw, Recipes

Tangy staghorn sumac seasoning is perfect for this Middle Eastern salad

Tangy staghorn sumac seasoning is perfect for this Middle Eastern salad

It’s fun dipping into the wild pantry to add zest and flavor to dishes. For this middle Eastern tabouli recipe, I dipped into the pantry not once, but twice. In addition to this tangy sumac seasoning, I stripped some dried mint leaves off a bundle I have hanging in my kitchen and crumbled those in. (Though it will be up soon, mint has not yet appeared in my neck of the woods - Western PA.)

The fun thing about sumac is that even if you missed harvesting it last fall, it’s available all winter. As long as you can find those red bundles on the otherwise bare trees, you can harvest and use sumac, which tastes fresh and lemony and is high in vitamin C.

Sifting Dried Staghorn Sumac

Sifting Dried Staghorn Sumac

Last fall I dried some sumac clusters, broke them up in the food processor, then sifted out the hard seeds through a strainer. This makes a sour seasoning that is perfect to add to dishes like fatoush, tabouli and hummus.

Today I made raw tabouli salad (without grains), but you could easily add a cup of cooked quinoa, cracked wheat or cous cous to the salad to turn it into a more traditional tabouli. For fatoush, simply add small pieces of toasted pita into the salad.

Raw Tabouli Salad

  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, seeds removed (and saved for smoothies or juices), chopped
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp dried sumac seasoning
  • bunch of parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp dried mint, crumbled and added
  • 1 Tbsp (or more, to taste) onion, chopped very small
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • drizzle olive oil (about 1 Tbsp)

Middle Eastern Salad

Raw Tabouli Salad

Mix all ingredients and enjoy.

Think happy thoughts….it’s March 1 and spring is sure to be upon us soon. To those of you who have access to maple trees: now is the time to tap them for their wonderful sap. Soon another wild year will be upon us!

Festive foraging,

~ Melissa Sokulski

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Food Under Foot Taps Maple Trees!

General Posts, Raw

We love collecting wild foods in the city. One thing our little house with it’s 20 by 60 foot property does not afford us, though, are maple trees.

Fortunately we have friends with land that live nearby and this year they have invited us to tap their trees to collect maple sap and make syrup! We are so grateful and super excited!

We got up bright and early this morning and collected some sticks from staghorn sumac trees. The hole in the tree will be 1/2 inch diameter, so we tried to find sticks that were just a little bigger. Sumac trees have a soft pith inside which is easy to push out with metal coat hanger. Then we widdled one end down to less than 1/2 inch, this is the side we will hammer into the tree (after drilling a 1/2″ diameter hole about 2-3 inches into the tree, see our next post which tells exactly what we did.)


tapered ends

tapered ends

This is how a staghorn sumac looks during the summer, just in case you are wondering which tree I am talking about:

Sumac tree in bloom with foliage - not how it looks right now!

Sumac tree in bloom with foliage - not how it looks right now!

Now there are no leaves, but the old red berry clusters are still on them, which makes them very easy to identify. The staghorn sumac has velvety branches, but you can use any red berried sumac. Poisonous sumac has white berries, so as long as you see trees with clusters of these red berries (which may not be as vibrant red now, but they will still look red) you have the right tree to use. I believe elderberry trees also have a soft pith that can be pushed out, so if you happen to know of an elderberry tree you can use those instead.

We put 11 spiles into 8 trees and have been collecting sap and boiling it down into syrup for 3 days now! We’ve made delicious maple syrup and delectible maple candies. I’ll share more later…with pictures and maybe even a video or two!

Enjoy mud season! It’s also maple syrup season!
~ Melissa Sokulski
Food Under Foot


Sweet and Tart Staghorn Sumac Lemonade

General Posts, Identification, Recipes

And from the desert we head back east…

Staghorn Sumac

Staghorn Sumac

Yesterday we gathered staghorn sumac, to make a lemonade-type of drink for the kids from Pittsburgh’s Student Conservation Association (SCA) to sample on their walk today. (I’ll post more pictures and information about all we saw on the walk early next week.)

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) grows in bright red clusters on a shrub or small tree (which spreads “like a weed!”) The staghorn sumac has think, densely hairy branches and twigs (giving the appearance of a stag’s horn.) You can pick the fruit clusters in summer, fall, even into winter, as long as they are still vibrant red. They are high in Vitamin C (so we use cold water when making the lemonade, so as not to destroy the vitamin) and have a sour lemony taste. They can also be dried and used as a lemony spice, common in Middle Eastern recipes.

Poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix) has white fruit, please avoid all white fruited sumacs!

Here is how we made the lemonade. It’s very simple:

Above are the sumac clusters on the table, and below I’ve put them in a jar.

Fill the jar with cold water (cold water preserves the vitamin C) and let it sit overnight. In the morning, strain and add sweetener like honey, agave nectar or maple syrup to taste. You could leave out the sweetener as well, it tastes refreshingly sour, like lemon water.

The walk today was so much fun! The kids (and adults) were great - a wonderful enthusiastic group. I’m excited to share with you all we saw!

~ Melissa Sokulski
Food Under Foot

**If you want more information about scheduling a wild edibles walk for your group, check our wild events page. Or you can call Melissa Sokulski at (412) 381-0116, or email to Thanks!**