Yeah. So my whole life I've been living with an erroneous belief. I've heard "Sumac is poisonious" countless times and the term "poison Sumac" has been bandied about forever. I've even suffered with guilt knowing that, as a child, I talked my brother into tasting "poison sumac". What was I thinking?
It turns out that my child's instinct wasn't far off. I've got this amazing gem of a book - The Forager's Harvest - and I'm having so much fun with it. In here Sumac is considered a drink and a snack. There is such a thing as poison sumac. I don't know if I've ever seen it. It's leaves are very glossy and the fruit of it hangs in clusters.
The sumac I'm surrounded by is Stagshead for the most part. Upright clusters of fuzz covered "berries". Really just seeds with a fleshy covering. Apparently the Indians really favored Sumac-Ade. Going so far as to dry the heads so they could brew it up year round. Of course I had to try some as soon as the heads were mature. Here are several in my kitchen sink where I rinsed them lightly.
Put them in a container and cover them with cool water
Crush them up a little with your hands and then let them sit for a few hours to "steep". Then I strain it through a paper towel lined sieve and, voila, a refreshing beverage with a slight tartness reminiscient of raspberry.
I haven't tried it yet but you can peal and eat young stems. They are purported to taste like a mild apple. This book is geared for our altitude and latitude. I'm discovering that the woods and fields are a storehouse of amazing things to eat.
Next up, I'm going to investigate to see if I can locate any wild parsnips. I love me some parsnips. Do you have wild edibles in your yard?