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sumac: toxicity, uses for

kent smith


Joined: Sep 05, 2010
Posts: 211
Location: Pennsylvania
are there any good uses for sumac trees? one amish nieghbor told me that the smoke from them is toxic. I saw that they are related to poison ivey. anyone know sumacs?
kent


Kent
Brice Moss


Joined: Jul 28, 2010
Posts: 700
Location: rainier OR
    
    2
I know they make me itch just walking close to them
Joshua Msika


Joined: Jun 06, 2010
Posts: 66
Location: Nova Scotia
Depends on the sumac. Poison sumac (white berries, I think, we don't have any) is poisonous but staghorn sumac (red/pink berries, slightly furry) can be infused in cool water to make a drink that tastes like raspberry lemonade. I've tried it a few times, it tastes really good. Just wrap the clump of berries in a muslin cloth or something to avoid the hairs going everywhere in your drink. Or serve through a sieve.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Some people are allergic to all sumac relatives, even the non-poisonous kind.  Cashews are a sumac and some people are allergic to these nuts.


Idle dreamer

Cris Bessette
volunteer

Joined: May 20, 2011
Posts: 671
Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 8A
    
  29
machinemaker wrote:
are there any good uses for sumac trees? one amish nieghbor told me that the smoke from them is toxic. I saw that they are related to poison ivey. anyone know sumacs?
kent


I have staghorn sumac (rhus typhina) on my property, I too have made the "Sumac-aide" from the red seed clusters and it does taste pretty much like lemon-aide.
I also like it because of its tropical appearance, it adds a bit of an exotic look to the yard.
These are an "early colonizer" tree, they tend to pop up on road zides, under powerlines.etc. They might be good for naturalizing bare ground.

(Just make sure you don't confuse with the poisonous relative Toxicodendron vernix)
Cory Allan


Joined: Sep 03, 2011
Posts: 52
Location: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
I planted staghorns in my north-facing side yard path along the garage on my previous property to provide a fast-growing (i.e. 1 summer season) woodland setting where grass once struggled to survive. For Canada, they provide a welcome tropical look. Just don't try it in the full sun - they'll take off with runners all through the grass as its their nature to form a brush understory for hillsides and woodland edges.  Trimming the suckers that shoot up is much more manageable in a shady area. 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame


Joined: May 23, 2010
Posts: 488
Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
    
    3
Sumac tea from the red berries, is quite tasty and good source of vit c, if I remember correctly. 

It is possible to push in the pith out of the center of a fresh sumac branch, which might be useful if you needed a hollow tube of softwood for some purpose.  Native Americans use this technique to make the stem for Sacred Pipes.  White ash has a similar property, and is used in a similar way.  I have read that the inner bark of Sumac was also used in some of the kinikinik mixtures smoked in the Pipe. 

Sumac is good for environmental restoration - grows well on disturbed soils where erosion control is needed. 
richard valley


Joined: Aug 18, 2011
Posts: 195
Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
We use Sumac on Shish kebob.
John Sizemore


Joined: Mar 27, 2011
Posts: 96
Location: West Virginia/ Dominican Republic
We always put the seeds in our mouths and then spit out the seeds after the flavor was gone. This was in the fall after the turned bright red. Delicious.


I am the first generation of my family to grow up on the grid eating out of the super market. I hope to be the last.
richard valley


Joined: Aug 18, 2011
Posts: 195
Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
This summer we bought about 60 plants and trees from the state, of these two were Sumac. Planted them late in the year hope they take hold and come on strong in spring. We buy Sumac from the Armenian store for use in the kitchen, be nice to have it growing.
Ken Anderson


Joined: Feb 25, 2012
Posts: 11
Location: Millinocket/St. Agatha, Maine
When I was twelve, I found them to be quite useful as catapults. If you trim the branches from them and cut the top just above a "Y", you can bend the sumac over almost to the ground and it has quite a spring to it, catapulting sticks or other ammunition quite a distance. Other than that, I can't think of anything.


That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it, unless someone yells at me or something.
richard valley


Joined: Aug 18, 2011
Posts: 195
Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
Ken, Years ago my friend Ronnie Butler, devised a bazooka, well, a big slingshot, made with 2"X4" materal. One boy would hold it aginst his sholder, there was also a forward handle. Ronnie held it first try, half bricks were the projectile. It was lucky he was wearing a helmet. The half brick hit in his head sending the helmet 50ft. He was not daunted, he offsat the uprights that held the inner tub and it worked.
Than when the invisible enemy jumped Cameron's fence and ran across the field to attack us waiting in the eucalypts grove by the irrigation ditch, we were able to mow them down.

You had to have been there Ken!
Jeanine Gurley
steward

Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 1392
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
    
  10
I saw a Cherokee woman (North Carolina) on a television show using the ground dried berries as a seasoning on some fish. She was demonstrating some traditional cooking methods. I collected some of the seeds that grow here in SC to do the same but - as with so many of my projects - never got around to trying it.


1. my projects
richard valley


Joined: Aug 18, 2011
Posts: 195
Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
In an earlier post: We use it on Shish Kebob. I got couple sumac plants from the state last year, things are starting to sprout at the lower ranch I hope they come back.
David Bates


Joined: Dec 05, 2011
Posts: 78
Location: Mountain Grove, Ontario, Canada

I have the red, non-poisonous, lemonade kind. They grow like crazy around here, you find roots and shoots anywhere there isn't shade. The wood from sumac is beautiful. Like the catapult idea (an excellent one, thanks) you take small branches to bend into uprights for shelves or what not and they dry into really colourful pieces of knobby wood. I hang my keys on a piece of Sumac. So I guess that's another use for them


much of what my neighbours consider to be good I consider to be bad
richard valley


Joined: Aug 18, 2011
Posts: 195
Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
The dried casings aroun the seed have a lemony tast. We planted some 60 plants and trees we we purchased form the state as a wind break. I wasn't clever enought to make a plot plan so I would know which plants were which. I hope, we planted only two, to get them growing in large number. If they do well I can start more with cuttings.
August Salmon


Joined: Jul 08, 2013
Posts: 7
Location: Colorado. San Juan Mountains. Zone 4b and Virginia. Clinch Mountain. Zone 7a..
Jeanine Gurley wrote:I saw a Cherokee woman (North Carolina) on a television show using the ground dried berries as a seasoning on some fish. She was demonstrating some traditional cooking methods. I collected some of the seeds that grow here in SC to do the same but - as with so many of my projects - never got around to trying it.


Is Staghorn Sumac similar to the Sumac used in Middle Eastern cooking?
S Carreg


Joined: Mar 29, 2013
Posts: 260
Location: De Cymru (West Wales, UK)
I think it's the same sumac as in middle eastern cooking, in any case I use it in the same way, as a seasoning for all kinds of dishes, hummus labneh, meat dishes, it's really nice. sumac-aide and sumac tea are both delicious.
Melba Corbett


Joined: Apr 23, 2011
Posts: 160
Location: North Carolina
Sucking the ascorbic acid off the berries or soaking them in water, straining and then gargling with the "lemonade" can often stop a sore throat in less than a minute. This is a good plant to dry berries for the winter for a source of Vit. C.


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George Meljon


Joined: Jul 28, 2013
Posts: 199
Location: Southern Indiana zone 6a
    
    2
We have both on our property. One of the poison ones is about 20 feet tall!

The white berries tell all you need to know to id a poisonous one. Beyond that, I found the leaflets to be a bit glossy, but most importantly non-serrated or smooth edged. That way you can ID when the fruit isn't visible.

They say they are only found in swamps, but that's not true totally. I have some wetter spots that they are on, but it's not swamp by any means. So definitely look for wet areas, but don't rule it out in a spot that is still dry most of the year.
Marsha Richardson


Joined: Feb 15, 2012
Posts: 20
The young growing shoots can be peeled and cooked like asparagus, pretty tasty and the more you cut them back the more shoots you get. The deer also browse them pretty heavily around here. We have staghorn, glossy and winged. None of the poison one here and I'm glad of it. You can harvest the bright red heads and try them for use in the winter for a big boost of vitamin C.
wayne stephen
steward

Joined: Mar 11, 2012
Posts: 1567
Location: Western Kentucky-Climate Unpredictable Zone 6b
    
  87
It is the same spice used in middle-eastern cooking . It is an ingredient in the spice mix za'atar. You know you're in a good arabic cafe if they have sumac in a cheese shaker on the tables. I learned about sumac when I was eleven and was reading "My Side of the Mountain". I went into the woods and brought some home to make Wild Pink Lemonade. My Syrian grandmothers' face lit up . I think she was proud of me . She knew all about sumac and was thrilled someone else in our family was catching on.
Some basic info from Wiki :
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumac

Permaculture is CPR for the planet !


Jay Peters


Joined: Mar 20, 2013
Posts: 50
Location: Montreal, QC mostly. Developing in Southern New Brunswick, Canada. Zona 5a. +/- 45" annual rainfall
    
    1
Great to know - this are absolutely everywhere in the Eastern (and southern I suppose) parts of Canada at least. They line highways from Ontario to the Atlantic and its great to know they are so useful! I see in the wiki that other varieties were used to make wax. I wonder if there's any chance the staghorn can be used to make a wax or a lacquer as well?


Do it.
Gianni Henny


Joined: Dec 11, 2013
Posts: 2
richard valley wrote:The dried casings aroun the seed have a lemony tast. We planted some 60 plants and trees we we purchased form the state as a wind break. I wasn't clever enought to make a plot plan so I would know which plants were which. I hope, we planted only two, to get them growing in large number. If they do well I can start more with cuttings.


Sumac is very easy to identify, so you will be able to pick the two plants out. They will spread and form a thicket if you leave them unattended. They spread into our (overgrown) fenced in garden area, and have not wanted to leave without a fight. Their runners are long, and if you only dig up part they will just sprout a new shoot from the remaining root in the ground. We don't mow our field but a couple of times a year, and that is not enough to eradicate them FYI. We are in the Mid Atlantic region, it may be different for other climates.

Their new growth is soft (not woody), and kinda sappy (bleeding white if I remember right) if you break it. The leaf formation resemble black walnut, but they have more of a purple or reddish stem on the new growth. I too have heard that you can peel the soft growth and eat it, but have not tried more than a piece or two.

We have tried soaking the berries in water, but never know if we let them ripen enough or too much when we do it. It is okay, but mild in flavor.

Another interesting side note: I knew an old school trapper who used them to blacken his traps. I think he put the ripe sumac berries in a big pot with the traps and simmered them and soaked them for awhile before waxing the traps.

It may be a problem plant for some people, but it is not a bad plant I'm definitely going to save some dried berries for cooking after reading this thread.
mary yett


Joined: Nov 01, 2012
Posts: 60
Location: Manitoulin Island - in the middle of Lake Huron .Mindemoya,Ontario- Canadian zone 5
    
    2
The ascorbic acid (vitamin c) content of the berries has many practical cleaning applications. You can't beat cleaning supplies that are free and non toxic!

Sumac berry tea can be used like vinegar (but stronger) to remove lime (calcium) build up in tea kettles, etc. We have a high calcium content in our water where I live, so I throw a spoonful of dried berries into my tea kettle every couple of months. I let ii boil for 10 min or so, then pour out and rinse - it gets it nice and shiny clean. Steeping hot sumac tea in a stained tea pot will also get rid of most stains.

Many toilet bowl cleaners contain hydrochloric acid, which is nasty stuff. I find a strong sumac tea will work nearly as well to remove most toilet bowl stains. Use a toilet plunger to remove most of the water in the bowl, then squirt the sumac tea on the stained areas and let it sit for maybe 10-15 min, then scrub with a toilet brush. Repeat if necessary.

Ground up sumac berries also make great zatar seasoning for hummus, etc.
mary yett


Joined: Nov 01, 2012
Posts: 60
Location: Manitoulin Island - in the middle of Lake Huron .Mindemoya,Ontario- Canadian zone 5
    
    2
When processing sumac berries for use in tea or food, make sure to remove the little red fuzzy berries from the stems connecting them. Even a small amount of stem will impart a bitter taste.
Chrissy Lynch


Joined: Jul 11, 2013
Posts: 7
I've used sumac in a handful of garden-support applications. When fresh, even thicker trunks are flexible... I was able to weave a nice trellis. I used the thinner, twiggier pieces for bean and pea support. I have often wondered how sumac behaves in a 'coppicing' situation... How quickly it grows back(if at all) after being cut. I never went back to check the spot I cleared out to make trellis and have since moved.
Dale Hodgins
pollinator

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 3772
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
    
  53
We had an eroded hillside covered in sumac when I was a kid. We sometimes made the drink and sucked a few seeds.

My brother tapped some maple trees and then ran up the hydro bill as he boiled it down. I decided that this was too much work, so I brought some sap to a boil and added sumac to make sweet tea. It was very good. I haven't done it since.


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Ann Torrence
pollinator

Joined: Jun 27, 2012
Posts: 415
Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
    
  31
This site gives a recipe for staghorn sumac wine. The recipe calls for 5 lbs (2.e kg) of berries. Approximately how many pounds per plant? How does it do in a drier, western climate?

Edited to add: Sunset plant database suggests it is quite appropriate for the intermountain west. Low to moderate water, high mountain Sunset zones.

How easy is it to root from cuttings?


Blogging about homesteading, photography and living in a small Utah town | Growing mostly cider apples at Stray Arrow Ranch
Jen Shrock
pollinator

Joined: Jan 25, 2013
Posts: 356
Location: NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
    
    8
Hi Mary Yett (I was with you in the Holzer seminar in Duluth). I have always heard the tea side of things. Thanks for the information on the cleaning uses and the tip about the stems. You have such a wealth of information!


"Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you." ~Maori Proverb

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Dennis Lanigan


Joined: Mar 09, 2012
Posts: 139
Location: SE Minnesota
    
    9
Sumacs are a great source of soulable tannins, or in other words great for making vegetable tanned leather. I make leather from deer hides as a hobby and plan on scrounging for sumac leaves next late summer. If anyone wants to sell/trade leaves to me and is in the area of the Twin Cities/W. Wisconsin please let me know.
mary yett


Joined: Nov 01, 2012
Posts: 60
Location: Manitoulin Island - in the middle of Lake Huron .Mindemoya,Ontario- Canadian zone 5
    
    2
good to hear from you, Jen.
that was a fantastic workshop with Sepp Holzer. He calls sumac the "American Lemonade Tree"
ben harpo


Joined: Sep 17, 2013
Posts: 62
Location: Illinois, zone 6b, 43" average annual rainfall
    
    3
I heard sumac was the traditional choice for making stems for corn cob pipes. Because it has nice round stems with a pithy center, and the pith can be poked out with a wire.


"We have it in our power to begin the world over again." - Thomas Paine
 
 
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