I’ve had my eye on this plant for a couple of years now. It was so unusual looking, I just had to know what it was. Then… someone told me it was Stag’s horn Sumach. Rhus typhina

I had eaten this spice in the past, the taste being nothing short of amazing. But I didn’t know what the plant looked like. I haven’t eaten it recently and I feel like I need to go out and eat some again so I can fully describe the taste. It woke up my tastebuds, zingy and unlike anything I had ever tasted before. If you haven’t yet tried sumach before I highly recommend you find your nearest Middle Eastern /Greek/Turkish shop and ask for some food containing it. The berries are bright, fiery red as you can see, and that’s what it tastes like. 

Note the serration on the leaves, and the berries are red.

So I once I found out the plant was sumach, it was too late in the season and the winter rains had washed away most of the colour. For the rest of the year I observed it, day by day, wondering what it would taste like, when I could pick it at the right time of year.

Fast forward to, leaving London and moving to Stirling where I have found another supply! As Miles Irving described it… Foraging is like being on a merry-go-round, if you don’t grab something when you see it, you have to go around again, waiting for another year until it’s ready. (I love this analogy!!) 2 years later I have finally managed to be sure it’s the right type of sumach and it’s edible. I found an easy recipe thanks to Robin Harford of Eatweeds.

IMPORTANT: There is a poisonous type of sumach, which has white/yellow berries, and the leaves have no serrations on them. Be absolutely sure you have the right plant! Also, some people have been known to react to this plant, so be cautious, try a little first, see how your body reacts. Then, the next day, try a little bit more. And so on. Whatever you do, don’t have a whole lot of any new plant when ingesting for the first time. Lastly, some studies suggest this plant has been known to lower blood sugar levels, so please keep this in mind. It’s also in the cashew family, so if you are allergic to cashews this plant is not for you.

As I was using this plant for the first time I started off with this easy recipe.

  1. Soak the fruit in water overnight. You will need to put something on top of the fruit, so that they stay submerged under the water. 
  2. Store in the fridge overnight. (A couple of hours will also work, if you’re short of time)
  3. Take out the fruit and drain liquid through a tea towel/muslin cloth
  4. Try a tiny bit. See how that feels. (Some people can be allergic). If you’re feeling fine, then try a little bit more the next day. 
  5. You can sweeten if you like. I think it’s refreshing on its own. 
  6. Leave in the fridge.
  7. Stag’s horn Sumach – Drink Summer in Autumn

Disclaimer: Information contained on this website is for informational purposes only. I am not a doctor or health specialist. I intend all readers to have previously attended a course in person with a foraging expert.