Along the Grapevine

Sumac and Rhubarb Soup



Of all the forageables I have found in my area over the last year, the one that I use most frequently is the staghorn sumac. It is easy to identify, pick and preserve. It also has a relatively long harvesting period, from July to late fall, so I am able to collect at least as much as I need when I feel like it. It has also inspired some of my favourite and most innovative recipes which include among others:

Sumac DrinkSumac powder and molassesRice PuddingSumac Meringue PieFermented Hummus with SumacSumac and VegetablesZa’atar

I have also used it regularly in stews, sauces, dressings and pretty much anywhere where a bit of lemon or pomegranate juice would be called for.

For anyone not familiar with this wild plant, at least not for culinary purposes, here are a few pointers.

What is staghorn sumac? A shrub, also known as velvet sumac and sumac vinegar tree, it is of the genus Rhus and a member of the cashew family. It grows in most of Eastern Canada, and is used as an ornamental shrub in Europe for its fall foliage and distinctive fruit.

How to identify it. This shrub is between 1 and 8 meters in height and is commonly found along roadsides, at forest edges and in clearings. It has compound leaves with serrated edges. The flowers are cone shaped clusters with velvety buds. Its thick hairy branches resemble the horns of a male deer, hence the name staghorn. There are poison sumacs, but their leaves have no serrations and they have smooth white berries.

How to use it. For sumac powder, remove the berries from the clusters and dry them in a dehydrator or an oven at about 170 F. Grind them and then sift them. For the juice, it is usually recommended just to soak the entire flower in water for a few hours, and for a more concentrated liquid, remove the flowers and add fresh ones to repeat the process until you get the strength you want. I have also simmered them to get more colour, although I might lose some nutritional value in the process.


I decided to make a recipe for Angie’s Fiesta Friday #28 using the juice, which is most often used in lemonade-like drinks. I thought to mix it with rhubarb since now is the time that these two ingredients overlap for a few weeks. I have always liked the Scandinavian types of sweetish fruit soups, but if you are not a fan of such soups, you can serve it as a drink and call it what you will. However you serve it, it is a deliciously refreshing dish with a beautiful rosey colour.


Sumac and Rhubarb Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Print


2 cups chopped rhubarb

1 cinnamon stick

1 cup water

1/3 cup sugar

1 Tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tbsp water

1 cup sumac juice


Simmer the rhubarb, sugar, cinnamon and water until the rhubarb is very soft. Strain and return to the pan. Add the cornstarch and simmer a few minutes longer. Add the sumac juice. Serve either hot or cold.

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Author: Hilda

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

15 thoughts on “Sumac and Rhubarb Soup

  1. What a great idea to combine these two ingredients while they’re both in season. I loved learning more about sumac. Your recipe looks delicious as well. Have a wonderful weekend, and have a happy FF!


  2. Totally original, love it! You know you are so fortunate to have access to your very own sumac! Does the fresh sumac smell like the dried? I love sumac straight up and keep it in my spice cabinet, but I also like it in zaatar mix. Another bookmark from your site. !


    • Thanks, Sue. I don’t think the flower has much aroma at all until it is dried. It does make your hands smell and taste really good when you’re working with it, but I’ll check and see if I can detect a scent when on the bush. According to the scientific info I looked up it has no scent, but prefer to see for myself.


  3. what an informative right up !!! Thanks Hilda for sharing 🙂


  4. very informative and the drink looks sooooooooooooooooooooo refreshing. …


  5. Sumac powder is commonly found in Middle Eastern foods. I get it from our local Turkish supermarket. It is a lovely sour ingredient often used in place of lemon. Combining it with rhubarb must have enhanced its flavour. I’m with you there about cold fruit soups – much better as a smoothy or a thick drink.


  6. I actually had no idea you can find sumac growing in the wild, the flowers are pretty! It’s one of my favourite middle eastern cooking ingredients, and this soup sounds delicious. Thank you for sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday, enjoy the party!!


  7. Sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing. Emma.


  8. Pingback: Fiesta Friday #28 | The Novice Gardener

  9. What a wonderful idea! I have just started using sumac in some recipes and have discovered that I quite like it. I have tons of rhubarb now, so I will have to try this! Thanks! 😀


  10. How interesting Hilda! I had no idea sumac could be found in Canada (so happy to learn something new today!) somehow I always pictured it more as something that would grow in the Middle East. Your soup using the berries sounds really delightful and such a refreshing summer drink! Happy Fiesta Friday.


    • For years I thought the variety here was not edible, because no one seems to use it. A pity to have all that lovely fruit go to waste, although it does attract a number of birds and other wildlife. I don’t think I’m any competition for them.


  11. Pingback: Rhubarb Chutney | Along the Grapevine

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