We don’t always appreciate the beauty that we find in our own backyards. When I was growing up, there was a group of bushes in a neglected corner at the back of the house hidden behind garbage cans. Although I lived in that home for almost two decades, I only learned the name of those bushes this past summer and how valuable they really are. They are the wonderful sumac!
I paid closer attention to the bushes this past summer walking trails in Oro Medonte. There were several different varieties and the foliage and flowers were stunning. In December, the trees still held onto their fruit.
WHY Sumac are amazing
- Some varieties provide food for birds and other wildlife during the winter months. I was delighted to see them mentioned in the The Garden Post for feeding wildlife and for their winter garden interest.
- Varieties like staghorn sumac or rhus typhina which are native to eastern North America, are edible and have been featured by sites such as Cullinary Tourism. The drupes or fruits can be be soaked in cold water and then filtered out to make a citrus-like beverage. (Other varieties are poisonous so unless you are 100% sure, leave the fruits to the birds!)
- In the Middle East the drupes of other varieties of sumac have long been dried to be used as a spice. I have seen sumac spice used in culinary challenges on The Food Network and there are a number of recipes for meats, brines and other suggestions on their site.
- Like many native plants, sumac has an evolved relationship with its native ecosystem. According to horticulturalist and author, Felder Rushing, garden variety sumac are bird and pollinator friendly, drought resistant and have few pests. You will find his great article on Sensational Sumac on the HGTV site.
Edible or not, Sumac are beautiful in all seasons. I am delighted to have had the chance to learn more about them. Moving forward, I’ll be paying closer attention to what is in my own backyard.