Sumac is a popular spice in the Middle East. It is related to a poisonous shrub with the same name, but the kind used in cooking is safe and easy to spot because its berries are bright red (poisonous sumac is white). The berries are ground into a coarse powder and sold as a spice. You can also buy the berries whole. Sumac is a versatile spice that gives food a bright red colour and a sour taste, like lemon juice. One of the most common ways to use sumac is in za'atar, a mix of spices.
Ancient sumac has a long culinary history that goes back before the Roman Empire. Its health benefits were first written about in Greek medical texts, which noted that sumac has antiseptic qualities. Today, this ingredient is used all over the world to add flavour to everything from hearty grilled meats to fresh vegetables to sweet desserts.
What is Sumac?
Sumac is usually found in wild, rocky places like Sicily, which is on a high plateau in the Mediterranean. Sumac can also be found in parts of Iran and Turkey. When the berries are ready, they are picked, dried, and then ground. Sumac that has been processed turns a dark red-burgundy colour and feels like ground nuts. It smells and tastes like lemon, but it isn't as sour. In Arabic and Lebanese cooking, sumac is often used as an acidulant. Like salt, it brings out the natural flavours of the foods it is cooked with.
What is the origin of sumac?
The word sumac means "dark red" in Aramaic, which is where the name sumac comes from. The Roman Emperor Nero's doctor, Pedanius Dioscorides, noticed that sumac was good for your health because it helped you get rid of gas and made you pee. Before lemons got to Europe, the Romans used sumac to give their food a sour taste.
Native people and early settlers in North America used sumac to treat coughs, sore throats, stomachaches, and wounds, among other things.
How does sumac taste like?
Sumac's taste is a bit of a surprise, since the deep red spice tastes like fresh lemon juice. After this taste that is both sweet and sour, there is a powerful sting. Even though sumac has many different flavours, it goes very well with other spices like allspice, chilli, thyme, and cumin.
How to cook with sumac?
Sumac that has been ground can be used right out of its container. It is a very useful spice that can be added to a rub for meat, used to flavour vegetables (like eggplant), and is the best seasoning for homemade hummus. Sumac goes well with lamb and duck because it cuts through the meat's fat. Sumac is best when sprinkled over a dish right before serving. This is like adding a squeeze of lemon juice to a finished dish. Sumac is also a good way to add lemon flavour to a dish without adding liquid. Before you use sumac, check the label to see if it has salt in it. If it does, reduce the amount of salt called for in the recipe.
If you want to use the berry as a whole, crack or crush it a little and let it soak in water for about 20 minutes. Add to the marinades, dips, or dressings the same way you would with ground.
Uses of sumac:
Sumac can be used to improve a wide range of dishes because it has a flavour that goes well with many others. Most of the time, sumac is used in Middle Eastern cooking, but this versatile spice has many other uses:
- It is a common ingredient in za'atar, which is a popular mix of spices from the Mediterranean that goes on everything from pita to lamb chops.
- It is often sprinkled on meats, salads, breads, and desserts to add colour and a touch of citrusy acidity.
- It can be used in place of lemon juice or vinegar, and it doesn't have the same strong, overpowering taste.
- It can be added to a rub or marinade for meat to make the natural fats taste even better.
Health benefits of sumac:
Sumac is a plant that doesn't look like much, but there has been a lot of research done on it. Scientists have been looking into what sumac can do for more than fifty years. Even longer, natives have been using it. Studies have shown that sumac has a lot of phenols and flavonoids. The plant is also good for reducing inflammation, killing germs, and getting nutrients.
It has been used for a long list of health problems in the past, and new research backs this up even more.
- Sumac is nutritious
Sumac not only makes food taste better, but it is also very healthy and full of fibres, healthy fats, and vitamins.
- Sumac is Antimicrobial & anti-fungal
Sumac is a spice that can help treat skin inflammation and disorders because it kills bacteria and fungi. Scientists are also looking into Sumac's amazing ability to kill bacteria like Salmonella. They have found that it can be used to clean fruits and vegetables without harming them. Research has shown that Sumac has the amazing antimicrobial ability to stop the growth of common oral bacterial strains that cause infectious diseases of the mouth.
Most diseases are thought to be caused by inflammation, and Sumac is a spice that helps fight inflammation and fights diseases, colds, and the Flu. Sumac has a lot of antioxidants like tannins and flavonoids, which is why researchers think it might be good for your health. Basically, they work to protect your cells and body from oxidative stress, which can cause inflammation and diseases like cancer.
As we've talked about, sumac has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and is full of nutrients that help our bodies not only fight off diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes but also heal from them.
- Sumac can help keep blood sugar levels in a healthy range.
The body can be hurt in many ways by having too much sugar in the blood. It can make you tired, give you headaches, and mess up your urinary tract. Over time, it can also cause damage to nerves and kidneys. Researchers who looked at Sumac and blood sugar levels found that the spice lowered blood sugar levels by a lot. It may also help stop insulin resistance, which makes it harder to control blood sugar.
- Sumac can help ease muscle pain and cramps during menstruation
Sumac is full of antioxidants and may help treat inflammation, which can help relieve pain from aches and pains in muscles that happen often.
- Sumac is good for your bones
Osteoporosis is a disease that affects about 25% of women. Bones that are weak and brittle, which makes them more likely to break and cause other problems. Rat studies showed that Sumac did help stop bones from breaking down.
- Sumac is a diuretic
Sumac is a diuretic, which means it helps the body get rid of toxins through urine. It has been used for centuries to treat urinary tract infections and digestive problems.