Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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sumac the name of certain shrubs in the genus Rhus, of which various species grow wild in the warmer regions of the northern hemisphere. The species used in Middle Eastern cookery is Rhus coriaria, Sicilian or elm-leafed sumac. Its hairy ‘berries’ (so called, but not true berries) are dark red to purple when ripe. The spice sumac is made from the dried, powdered berries.

The acid fruits are used as a sour flavouring. They were so used in classical Rome, before the introduction of the lemon; and their modern use in the Middle East is most noticeable in areas where lemons are rare, for instance the remoter parts of Syria and N. Iraq.