Uses for Sumac

Smooth Sumac  (Rhus glabra L. )

Description - The colony-forming smooth sumac is a 10-20 ft. shrub with short, crooked, leaning trunks. The  leaves alternate, with 13–30 sharp-toothed leaflets.  On female plants, yellow-green flowers are followed by bright-red, hairy berries in erect, pyramidal clusters which persist throughout winter. 
 ***Since poison sumac has white berries (green early in the season), if you see the red one’s you’re safe. And the leaves of poison sumac are less pointy.  Reminder: always make sure you know what you are harvesting.

Time of Year: Summer

Location: All of North America
Click Here for map  If it does not grow in your area do a search to see what kind does

Nutrient Content
Vitamin C

Fruit, flowers, Roots, Bark

Editable uses

  •     The fruit can be eaten raw or cook.
  •     Fruit can be used as a lemon substitute. (and yes it has vitamin C to)
                Soak the berry’s in water for 20 min. and bam you have a lemonade like drink.
  •     Sumac wine (yes my gramps made this all the time!)
  •     Roots can be peeled and eaten raw
  •     The bark can be eaten and is actually very tasty

Medical Uses
  •   Tea from the spring blossoms can be used as an eye wash.  

  •   The inner bark and root bark boiled is like hydrogen peroxide.
  •  The boiled inner bark can also be used for diarrhea and fever
  • The milky latex from the plant has been used as a salve on sores
  •  Tea from the leaves is good asthma
  • Boil down the branches, with the seed heads, to a syrup and it can be used to treat itchy scalps and as a bathing water for frost-bitten limbs
  •  A poultice of the leaves has been used to treat skin rashes
  • The fruit can be used in the treatment of late-onset of diabetes
  • You can chew on the spring fruit blossoms for oral care. like a mouth wash.

Other Uses

  •     Oil from the seeds can be made into candles
  •     You can make Yellow and orange dye from the roots in 
  •     You can make black and red dye from the fruit
  •     You can make brown dye from the roots in the spring.
  • Because the wood is so easy to carve the Indians  use to make:

                          -flute from the branches.                            -buttons with the branches

                           -you can go crazy and even make fancy canes and decorations

                          - make blow guns
  •     The sap make great glue.
  •      I am actually letting a few grow in my yard right now because the trunks grow nice and straight and will be using them to make an arch for my grapes to grow on. You can even cut down younger ones to make bean teepee's. They are semi invasive so they grow fast.

Making sumac spice

Dry the fruit clusters in the sun for a few day or you can cheat and put them in the oven on low till they feel dry.  But keep an eye on them because most ovens are a bit to warm for this plant to dry in. You might be better putting them under a regular lamp bulb.  

Once they are dry enough start breaking up the clusters and picking out all the good berry's.  Put them in a blender ( or go old school and start pounding away).  The reason for doing the is to separate the fruit part from the seeds and sticks. So don't go to crazy with the blender. Get a mesh stainer or some screen and pour that mix in and fruit for the most part will go through and the sticks and seeds should stay out.  And then ground the fruit just a bit finer. Makes for a great drink mix and a fantastic flavor for cooking and great in salads! The spice lasts for a year or. But if the world turns upside down a nice tart drink mix may be the joy of the day.

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