Staghorn Sumac

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina)

Those striking red berry clusters are edible!!

Believe it or not, you can make the most refreshing summer beverage from these fuzzy sumac berry clusters!

Foragers call it sumac-ade, or wild lemonade.

The Beverage

The flavor of this wild sumac-ade is really complex and interesting.

- - THE RECIPE - -

Take 2 or 3 sumac clusters .

Stuff them into a large jar.

Pour cool water over to fill .

Cap and let it sit for a few hours, then stick it in the fridge.

When chilled, give it a taste. – chances are it will be quite sour.  Strain it.  

Dilute with more water to your liking.

Sweeten or not... it's terrific either way.


But isn't sumac poisonous?

This is poison sumac, pictured above.

Lucky for us, the  good and the bad sumac berries don't look anything alike.

Poison sumac berries are loose and they dangle down from the branch. They are not red.

Edible sumac berries are a dense, upright, red cluster.  That's what we want!!

(Note: Sumac is related to mango and cashew, and people allergic to these foods may want to avoid sumac.)

Harvesting Staghorn Sumac

When you an edible sumac tree, just snap off the berry cluster.

When you find edible sumac, taste it before taking it - - put a fuzzy berry in your mouth.  If it's good and lemony you'll know it!

Then just break off the berry cluster and take it home!

Staghorn sumac has very fuzzy stems, hence the name staghorn.

It has edible relatives that are similar, such as Smooth Sumac.  Just make sure the berries are in a dense, upright, red cluster. 

A beautiful plant!

Edible sumac berries ripen in summer.

They start out with not much taste, but go on to give us the main ingredient for delicious wild lemonade!!

Tasty, full of vitamin C and antioxidants, and it's free!!!

Chilled Sumac-ade

Some tips:

Use cool or room temperature water when steeping your sumac, not hot water.  Cool water brings out the best flavor.

When you strain your sumac, you can refill the jar to make a second batch!  Try it.  It will be less intense, but I find the extra batch is still great!