Sumac (Rhus coriaria) is a reddish-purple powder that adds a zingy acidic flavour, due to its malic acid content. The dried fruit are ground and used as a brightly coloured garnish and is an ingredient in za’atar spice mix. Sumac grows on a shrub native to the Mediterranean and Middle East. It is in the Anacardiaceae family, along with cashews, pistachios and mangoes. The stems and leaves of sumac species are used to tan soft Moroccan leather. Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina), from North America, used to be a very popular ornamental plant in Britain.
The culinary spice sumac isn’t the only edible form of sumac. More than twenty sumac species can be found growing in North America and most of these are edible. However, two species of sumac are highly poisonous and should be avoided at all costs. Can you work out which sumac species are edible and which ones are poisonous? Click on the plants to play.