I know it seems like I get excited about most herbal adventures, but I’m really looking forward to this one! I haven’t made Sumac sun tea since a The Spirit of Herbs workshop I did many years ago. So when I discovered this beautiful Sumac so close to my house I just had to harvest some for tea. I remember the taste of it vividly and it was almost identical to lemonade. It was quite delicious!
A Note About Identifying Sumac
The most important part of this herbal adventure is properly identifying sumac. Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) is the most common variety I have found in the wild. In southern Ontario, in addition to staghorn sumac you may find smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) and fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica). There is one variety of Sumac which is unsafe for consumption – Toxicodendron vernix. It is quite easy to tell the difference and here are some tips to look for.
- The poisonous variety only grows in wetlands
- The berries are white and they droop in large clusters
- The leaves are smooth and have 7-9 leaves per stem
- The stems are not hairy (whereas Staghorn Sumac’s stems are very hairy)
Making Sumac Sun Tea
Making sun tea is so easy and satisfying you will ask yourself why you’ve never done it before today. All you need to make the tea is:
- 2-3 clusters of sumac berries
- clear glass bowl
- Harvest your sumac berries ethically and with care. Do not harvest more than 10% of the plant in any given area and if you take that much do not return to that are for several years.
- This should not be a problem as I recommend only harvesting 2-3 berry clusters for a batch of sumac tea.
- Remove the fruits from the stem and place then in a large glass bowl.
- Fill the bowl with filtered water. Start with about 3-4 cups of water that way if the you find the tea too astringent or strong you can easily water it down.
- Place the bowl in a sunny spot for 2-4 hours. You will know it’s ready when it’s the colour of pink lemonade.
- Strain your tea through cheesecloth. I recommend cheesecloth because the berries of sumac have fine hairs and you might not get them all out with a regular mesh strainer.
- Place in the fridge to cool.
- Serve as is with ice or sweeten to your personal preference.