Along the Grapevine

Sumac and Vegetables



It is -20 degrees C today and dropping, so I make no apologies for not foraging today. I didn’t even make it outside. What I am doing is figuring out what to do with my foraged bounty and which ingredients are worth gathering and which just don’t work that well, or do not survive storage.

One of my favourite and most useful harvests this year has been the sumac, especially in powdered form. I have noticed that it is one of those increasingly popular spices, although still under-used. And as for local sumac, there seems to be none used whatsoever, even though the red sumac we gather here is similar to the product bought in specialty spice shops. If you are not sure how to identify it, watch this clip.  Even those who are familiar with it sometimes need to know how they can use it. I usually just say ‘on anything at all’, but no doubt it would be more useful to give some actual recipes.

I have already commented on this spice in my original post, but certain points bear repeating.

  • make sure you have identified the plant correctly
  • remove the berries without any other bits of the plants and clean them well
  • make sure you are not allergic to it

If you don’t have any of your own, you can buy it in shops. The store-bought is not always organic, and sometimes salt is added to give it bulk, so the home-made is preferable, but not essential. It adds a fruity, lemony flavour to vegetables, dressings, fish, meat, in short, just about anything. I even added it my shortbread with excellent results. Today, taking refuge from the cold weather and icy roads, I made two vegetable recipes;  grilled portobello mushrooms and Brussels sprouts from the last remaining fresh sprouts from my garden.

The portobello mushrooms are inspired by a recipe I found on line from Allrecipes, and it comes with a video. I made a few changes, mostly the sumac.

Grilled Portobello MushroomsDSC00132

3 portobello mushrooms

1/4 cup olive oil

3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 shallot (or small onion)

1 Tbsp garlic

1 Tbsp sumac powder

1 tsp saltDSC00133

Clean the mushrooms, pat dry and remove the stems. Mix the oil, vinegar, onion garlic and salt in a bowl and pour over the turned up side of the mushrooms. Leave them to marinate for about an hour. Grill them on a lightly oiled grill gill side up until cooked through, about 10 minutes. You will see the sauce bubbling on top of the mushrooms when they are ready.

Brussels Sprouts with Sumac


Brussels sprouts

olive oil (enough to coat)

sumac powder

salt to taste

Coat the sprouts with oil and salt. They can be roasted in the oven, but I sauteed them in a pan with the oil and salt and added the sumac just towards the end. If they are getting too browned but still too undercooked for your taste, add just a little water to barely cover the base of the pan, and continue to cook covered for a couple of minutes. Do not overcook!  DSC00131 This is a good method when the sprouts are not all the same size, even after halving the larger ones. I put the bigger pieces in first, then added the very small ones later.

This barely scratches the surface of things you can do with sumac powder, but as I work my way through my bag of red powder, I will post more of my experiments. Until then, I would be interested to know if anyone else has been using this spice in ways we have not yet thought of.



Author: Hilda

I am a backyard forager who likes to share recipes using the wild edibles of our area.

15 thoughts on “Sumac and Vegetables

  1. mushroom/sumac dish delish


  2. You may find this useful: from my favourite source for info PFAF (Plants For A Future a massive database based in Britain)…


    • Yes, I always like to find info that confirms my enthusiasm for this plant. The more I read about it, the more perplexed I am by its bad rep around here. Interesting to note that it is primarily the sap that causes allergies. When people ask about its safety, I suggest they first rub it on their skin, and then taste just a bit to see if there is any reaction.


      • We’ve used it in the bee smoker for as long as I can remember and it was recommended to Dad by his beekeeping mentor – as it had used by his father before him. I have heard of people having a reaction to Poison Sumac that’s similar to Poison Ivy, but never our Staghorn… So, what’s this “reaction” supposed to look like?
        LOVE drinking pink sumac “lemonade” in the summer (sweetened with honey, of course; )


      • I don’t claim to be an expert, but I think it is possible to have a reaction to staghorn, although rare. It is of the same family as poison ivy, but then again, so are mangos and cashews. A few people have allergies to those, usually fairly mild, but to be safe, I prefer to warn people just in case. In what way was it used in the smoker? If you have information to pass on, I know beekeepers around here who might be interested.


      • Last year’s bobs were used as part of the fuel mixture: probably because it smouldered nicely, was always high & dry and readily available in the bee yard: )


      • Thanks for that. Can I quote you on that? Do you have a blog I can refer to?


      • Quote me about bobs? Sure, only too glad to have the old timers’ info passed along! And sadly, no blog yet. It’s in the works though and I’ll be sure to let you know, once I do (thanks!: )


      • Hi Hilda, Just rereading your comment/query and wondering…
        Do you listen to CBC, by chance?


      • I do, mostly Radio 1 these days.


      • LOL! Same here… But, d’you know what gave it away? Right off, asking for the quote I the first place, but even more the (very Barbara Frum) “Thanks for that.” Vivre CBC.


      • Had no idea that was a Frumism, but now that you mention it, I do feel Frumish. Hilda.


      • 😀


  3. Pingback: Sumac and Rhubarb Soup | Along the Grapevine

  4. Pingback: Staghorn Sumac: Is it Really Edible? | Along the Grapevine

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