Poison or spice? It depends.
I knew to stay away from poison sumac (poison oak) because I learned that from my parents – especially when we had picnics on Garrett Mountain.
It wasn’t until I was learning the fine art of making dolma that I was introduced to the other sumac.
Sumac, the SPICE…
Should not be confused with the poisonous plant even though they are closely related.
Non-poisonous sumac is a berry that grows on a bush that grows wild in Mediterranean regions, and is a common ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine.
You probably won’t find sumac in your everyday supermarket, but it’s a
regular feature on the shelves of Middle Eastern stores.
Its tart taste lends itself nicely as a substitute for lemon or vinegar.
Sumac is most often used in soups, stews, marinades, rice recipes, dolma (stuffed vegetables), dips, salads, salad dressings, or as a rub for meats.
If you happen to dine in a Persian or Middle Eastern restaurant, you’re likely to find a shaker on the table filled with ground sumac, much like the shakers of Parmesan cheese you see in Italian eateries.