This Florida native is a large shrub (growing up to 20′ tall) that produces terminal clusters of red fruit in the fall before its leaves turn a brilliant red and fall. The flowers attract butterflies and the fruits are eaten throughout the winter by a variety of birds … if you don’t eat them first! Its ability to sprout from the roots and grow almost anywhere, coupled with its rapid growth rate, make it a good plant for erosion control.
Soil: Thrives on excessively dry sands to mesic poorly drained soils. Needs no amendment, lime, or fertilizer.
Water: Tolerates drought and abundance.
Sun: full sun, part sun, part shade.
Cold: Very cold hardy.
Pruning: Good pruning can help strengthen the structure of this shrub.
Propagation: By seed. It can form a thicket by spreading from underground rhizomes so should not be grown in a small area
Pests: Nothing serious.
Other problems: It can spread by root suckers, and become annoying.
Harvesting and storage: Harvest the clusters of sticky red fruits as soon as they turn red, before they get dust and bugs stuck to them. They should last all winter in your house, because they do outside.
Medicinal Uses: Various parts of the tree were also used by Native Americans to treat dysentery, mouth sores and skin eruptions.
Other Uses: The seeds, bark and leaves have a high tannin content and have been used by the leather industry and as fabric dyes. The berries were used to make a red dye.
Culinary Uses: Whole or ground, sumac seeds should be kept in a tightly closed container away from light and heat. The berries have a sour flavor and can replace lemon in many recipes. In the middle east sumac is used to flavor fish and seafood (Lebanon and Syria), salads (Iraq and Turkey), chicken, meatballs, kebabs and stews (Iran and Georgia). It is also used to flavor stuffings, rice, legumes and breads, sauces and dips and the Middle Eastern spice blend zaatar (zatar). Not widely known, sumac is an spice that enhances the flavors of foods without overpowering them – it is more subtle than lemon. As a spice it is generally used ground. If the berries are whole, they should be steeped in hot water for about 30 minutes; then strained through a cheesecloth and squeezed to extract an aromatic liquid for use in cooking waters or marinades.
Sumac-ade or Indian lemonade
Both Native Americans and early colonists used this native plant to create a refreshing, pink lemonade hundreds of years ago. Many suggest not pouring boiling water over the clusters, because that tends to leach out too much tannic acid and the result can be bitter.
Place about a gallon of water in a large bowl, add 10-12 berry clusters and gently break them apart with your hands.
Cover the bowl and let the berries steep in the sun for several hours or at room temperature overnight.
Remove the berries, and strain the liquid through cheesecloth or a coffee filter to filter out the fine hairs.
Sweeten to taste with honey, maple syrup, stevia leaves or sugar,
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