Sumac aka “magic dust”


sumac spice

sumac spice

Once when I was visiting  a Chilean-Syrian family in Ottawa,  I noticed my friend Fuxy putting a dark reddish spice into the salad dressing.  It was sumac, or as the famous chef Ottollenghi calls it, “magic dust”, and gave her salad a zingy citrusy flavour.  Fuxy gave me some to take home and I’ve been experimenting with it ever since — not only in salads, but also to make za’atar, with fish, chicken and lamb, and I sprinkle it on hummus instead of paprika, and on baba ganoush.

If you like the tartness of lemon, lime or hibiscus, I’m sure you’ll like sumac.  And it’s not only delicious but is an antioxidant and can “ boost immunity and slow the aging process“.  You can find the ground sumac spice in Middle Eastern grocery stores.

But what about all that sumac we see in Quebec? I did some research on-line and discovered that staghorn sumac, which always catches my attention in the fall because of its wonderful coloured leaves, is an edible variety.  (There is also poisonous sumac here but with its white berries, it is easy to distinguish.)

Staghorn sumac in October

Staghorn sumac in October

Then I noticed that Lufa, which delivers a weekly basket of local fruits and vegetables, listed sumac under “Fresh Herbs & Spices”.  I ordered a cluster to grind so that I can find out what local sumac tastes like.

If you want to buy the Middle Eastern variety, I know that it’s available at  Marché Lobo, 3509 du Parc, for $4.99 lb.  A quarter of a pound  is plenty to start with.

Please tell us where you find it and  how you used it.   If you’re trying it for the first time,  let us know whether you liked the  taste of this “magic dust”.

sumac cluster

Sumac cluster


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