• The Fantastic Spices World
  • The Fantastic Spices World
  • The Fantastic Spices World
  • The Fantastic Spices World

SUMAC ( Rhus coriaria L. )
Names in Other Languages:

English Shumac, Sicilian sumac
French Sumac
German Sumach, Gewürzsumach, Färberbaum
Spanish Zumaque
Italian Sommacco
Turkish Sumak
Japanese スーマック Sumakku

FAMILY: Anacardiaceae

ORIGIN:   : Middle East and Mediterranean countries, and it is cultivated in Southern Italy and Sicily

Sumac fruit in fall


The berries are dried and crushed to form a coarse purple-red powder. The whole fruit appears in dense clusters. Individual berries are small, round, 10 mm in diameter, russet coloured and covered with hairs.


The berries are used and they are dried and ground for making the spice.

SENSORY PROPERTIES: Tart and sour, with slightly astringent overtones.


The astringent-acidic flavour of sumac spice mostly goes back to two different types of constituents: Tannines (gallotannines, together 4%) and organic acids (malic, citric, and tatric acid plus smaller amounts of succinic, maleic, fumaric and ascorbic acid). Tannines are found in all parts of the plant, with particularly high concentrations in bark and root.

These plant parts were, thus, used for tanning leather since antiquity; moreover, they are part of anti-diarrhoeic concoctions in folk medicine.Furthermore, the fruits contain traces of a volatile oil (0.02%) made up of aldehydes and terpenoids (β-caryophyllene, α-pinene, α-Terpineol, carvacrol and the diterpene hydrocarbon cembrene).

The pericarp owes its dark red colour to anthocyanin pigments, of which chrysanthemin, myrtillin and delphinidin have yet been identified. Lastly, the sumac fruits contain 15% fatty oil.


Sumac is used as a dry seasoning for vegetables, rice dishes or meat kebabs. It is also used in salad dressings and to flavor meats. It can be sprinkled over salads particularly in place of lemon juice or vinegar. When mixed with other vegetables, such as onions, it is favored as a condiment. A mixture of yogurt and sumac is often served with kebabs. Zather is a blend of sumac and thyme use to flavour labni, a cream cheese made from yogurt. The ground sumac is used liberally sprinkled over rice in Turkey and Iran, and also used as a dry seasoning on salads in the Middle East. The sour flavour of sumac mellows slightly on cooking and is a great flavour enhancer.


The berries have diuretic properties, and are used in bowel complaints and for reducing fever. In the Middle East, a sour drink is made from them to relieve stomach upsets.

Sumac has antimicrobial and antioxidant activity and also it is a good source of vitamin C.

Note: Sumac spice (Rhus coriaria) should not be confused with the plant that causes the skin rash poison ivy (Rhus toxicodendron).