I have been using sumac powder as a spice for a long time, but am only now convinced that I can make the same thing with the sumac which grows all around us – except for the few hundred a year I pull out. It has a tart lemony flavour which is good in any spicy cooking, and can be used in place of lemon or lemongrass.
My experiment with that will have to wait, but meanwhile, here is a recipe for a concoction which can be drunk as a hot tea, a soft or hard cold drink, or an added ingredient to your own drinks. The flowers can be picked now, while bright red, or later after they have turned brown. The only difference is in the colour of the final product.
In some areas, the sumac is known as the lemonade tree, which gives you an idea of what the flower is like, and I hope to find more uses for it with a little trial and possibly error.
Pick some flowers from the sumac trees and rinse them.
Scrape the flowers off the cone. I (I am not sure if this step is necessary, but it does make sense. If anyone thinks or knows otherwise, let me know).
Mix 2 cups flowers, 2 cups water and 1 cup sugar in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Strain through wet cheesecloth in a sieve (or some other material), squeezing out all the liquid. Discard the flowers.
I used about 1 part tea to 4 parts soda water for a cold drink, but this is a versatile drink, so do as you like. It was also good with a little vodka thrown in.