Staghorn Sumac: What is it, where do you get it, and what’s it good for?

Sumac, the superstar ingredient in Fattoush dressing! It’s a staple in Middle Eastern cooking but funny enough, sumac is mainly harvested right here in Canada! In this blog we’ll go on about this wonderfully versatile, antioxidant, and vitamin-rich spice, and how you can mix it in your dishes at home.

sumac berries

What is Sumac and where do you get it from?

Sumac is a wild plant that is proliferant across the Mediterranean region. You can find sumac growing almost anywhere! Due to its abundance, it has made its way into much of the cuisine and medicinal uses across the Middle East, in Turkey, Lebanon, and some parts of Europe and Africa. The berries of the plant are harvested, dried, and then ground into a spice that is used in a near endless number of ways. However, much of the world’s commercial sumac is actually grown here in Canada, so we can add a Canadian ingredient here and there. Funny enough, much of the sumac from Canada is exported to the Middle East and sold back to food manufacturers and importers in Canada. We know…doesn’t make much sense!

There are several different varieties of sumac (35 species, actually!) and the spice from each will yield different flavours. Even within one species, the time of the harvest can impact the colour of the spice, ranging from brown, to pink, to a deep, purplish tone. In our case, this really impacts the final colour of our Fattoush dressing, which can be more or less pink depending on the sumac we use. One thing that isn’t impacted, however, is the taste! 

cedar valley selections fattoush dressing and sumac spice

What is sumac good for?

Sumac can add a tart, tangy and lemony flavour to your dishes without adding the liquid you’d include if you used lemon juice, so it’s a good substitute for lemon zest, lemon pepper seasoning, or even vinegar. Another great option for sumac is to use it as a meat tenderizer! 

Sumac Benefits

Did someone say SUPERFOOD? That’s right, sumac isn’t just pretty and delicious, but it’s sooo beneficial for us!! We use it because it’s traditional in Fattoush dressing, and the health because benefits are just an added bonus from the Mediterranean Diet! 

Many of the healthiest foods feature high vitamin content as well as antioxidant properties, and sumac is no exception. It’s great for us to eat foods that have high antioxidant values, because antioxidants fight free radicals in your body. Free radicals are linked to many illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. 

There is a ranking system for superfoods. It’s referred to as the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) Value, and it measures the total antioxidant capacity of a food per 100 grams. Some high ranking foods with high antioxidant contents you may be familiar with are acai berries, ground cinnamon, chia seeds, and blueberries. While they’ve all got high ORAC values, none of them rank higher than sumac! An absolute powerhouse when it comes to antioxidants, sumac has an ORAC value of 312,400 per 100 grams: 3x higher than acai and 60x higher than blueberries!

Eating sumac has also been shown to lower blood glucose levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes, as well as increasing good cholesterol levels. So, in conclusion, it both tastes good and is good for you. Another win-win! Are you inspired to add a little lemony goodness to your recipes? Give it a try, your body will thank you. 

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