I am so thrilled to have learned about so many new plants this year, sumac being the most recent (and flavorful) of all!
Sumac is very easy to identify with large cone shaped clusters of crimson colored berry bunches, technically called "drupes". It tends to grow in more wet climates, near streams and swamps, and in subtropical areas.
Many of the wild plants and mushrooms I work with don't always have the best flavor and therefore don't result in the tastiest teas. Butttttt this one is a definite game changer and an herb I will be using/drinking all year long now (more on that later).
These berries carry a VERY tart flavor similar to a fresh lemon. The dried berries, then ground into a powder, have been used as a delicious flavoring spice for all kinds of food dishes, especially in middle eastern cuisine. This tea has a similar flavor to hibiscus, cranberry, and lemonade.....MMMM so good!
Sumac also has a long history of medicinal use for colds, flus, sore throats, respiratory issues like asthma and intense coughs, to balance blood sugar, support cardiovascular health, and is an overall health-supportive herb.
Here's the super easy process for making sumac tea. Get creative with other herbal additions or flavors you'd like to throw in the mix!
1-2 berry bunches (the more berries = more tartness)
4 cups (32 oz) water. I always use a quart size mason jar!
Raw honey added to your liking (I typically do 1-2 BIG spoonfuls)
Optional add-ins: cinnamon, clove, hibiscus, mint, or chamomile.
Place berries (stems and all, or just berries if you wish!) directly into your jar. Fill to the top with almost boiling/hot water. Cap and let steep at room temperature for several hours or overnight. At some point when it is still hot but not boiling, I'll add the honey and shake until dissolved. Remove the berries then strain the remaining liquid through a cheesecloth, fine mesh strainer, or coffee filter. (sumac's tiny hairs can sometimes irritate the throat if it isn't strained well).
Some sources say steeping sumac in hot water results in a bitter tea. I have not had this experience, just a nice tart flavor! Feel free to experiment to find what works for you.
Get creative with adding other herbs, fruit juices, or other fun additions. Since sumac has a tart flavor is pairs well with lots of different flavors! Please let me know if you add anything that makes this tea even MORE delicious!
Photographed below is my big basket of sumac and one of the several racks of sumac berry bunches I am currently drying out. Remember how I said I'll be using sumac all year long? Once these berries are thoroughly dried, I will grind them into a powder and use it much like you would squeeze fresh lemon juice over a meal or as an addition to a recipe. YUM!!