April 06, 2010

            Sumac  is a red colored powder generally used as a spice for garnishing certain Kuwaiti cuisines, such as Hamous, Fata’er (Arabic bread with fillings), mix with certain Salads, Kababs,Chicken Mussakan etc. As an expatriate in Kuwait due to lack of Arabic knowledge, it is quiet difficult to get details of such things. I would like to share my collections with my visitors.            
Details as follows:-
Sumac (pronounced /ˈʃuːmæk/ or /ˈs(j)uːmæk/; also spelled sumach) is any one of approximately 250 species of flowering plants in the genus Rhus and related genera, in the family Anacardiaceous.
Sumacs grow in subtropical and temperate regions throughout the world, especially in Africa and North America.
Sumacs are shrubs and small trees that can reach a height of 1–10 metres (3.3–33 ft). The leaves are spirally arranged; they are usually pinnately compound, though some species have trifoliate or simple leaves. The flowers are in dense panicles or spikes 5–30 centimetres (2.0–12 in) long, each flower very small, greenish, creamy white or red, with five petals. The fruits form dense clusters of reddish drupes called sumac bobs. The dried drupes of some species are ground to produce a tangy purple spice.
Sumacs propagate both by seed (spread by birds and other animals through their droppings), and by new shoots from rhizomes, forming large clonal colonies.
Cultivation and uses
The drupes of the genus Rhus are ground into a deep-red or purple powder used as a spice in Middle Eastern cuisine to add a lemony taste to salads or meat. In Arabic cuisine, it is used as a garnish on meze dishes such as Hummous and is added on salads in the Levant. In Iranian (Persian and Kurdish) cuisine, sumac is added to rice or kabob. In Turkish cuisine, for example, it is added to salad-servings of kebabs and lahmacun. In North America, the smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) and the staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) are sometimes used to make a beverage termed "sumac-ade," "Indian lemonade" or "rhus juice". This drink is made by soaking the drupes in cool water, rubbing them to extract the essence, straining the liquid through a cotton cloth and sweetening it. Native Americans also used the leaves and berries of the smooth and staghorn sumacs combined with tobacco in traditional smoking mixtures.
Species including the fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica), the littleleaf sumac (R. microphylla), the skunkbush sumac (R. trilobata), the smooth sumac and the staghorn sumac are grown for ornament, either as the wild types or as cultivars.
The leaves of certain sumacs yield tannin (mostly pyrogallol), a substance used in vegetable tanning. Leather tanned with sumac is flexible, light in weight, and light in color, even bordering on being white.
Dried sumac wood fluoresces under long-wave ultraviolet radiation, commonly known as black light.
Toxicity and control
Some species, such as Poison ivy (Rhus toxicodendron, syn.Toxicodendron radicans), Poison oak (Rhus diversiloba, syn. Toxicodendron diversilobum) and Poison sumac (Rhus vernix, syn. Toxicodendron vernix), have the allergen urushiol and can cause severe allergic reactions.
Mowing of sumac is not a good control measure as the wood is springy resulting in jagged, sharp pointed stumps when mowed. The plant will quickly recover with new growth after mowing.Goats have long been considered an efficient and quick removal method as they eat the bark, which helps prevent new shoots.
A young branch of staghorn sumac
           Rhus lancea fruit                                                                        


Winged sumac leaves and flowers                                           Rhusmalloryi fossil

At times Rhus has held over 250 species. Recent molecular phylogeny research suggests breaking Rhus sensu lato into Actinocheita, Baronia, Cotinus, Malosma, Searsia, Toxicodendron, and Rhus sensu stricto. If this is done, about 35 species would remain in Rhus. However, the data are not yet clear enough to settle the proper placement of all species into these genera.