Before Lemons, There Were Sumac Berries

Before lemons, there were Sumac Berries.  Sumac is described as a berry but it is actually a fruit that grows in clusters, is picked and sun dried.  The shrubs are related to the cashew tree.  In ancient times, the Romans and Egyptians used sumac as a source for adding a citrus flavor to their cooking.  It is also used as a condiment to be sprinkled on baked breads and eggs.  Sumac has a sour, tart taste reminiscent of a lemon but just a bit more floral. Sumac Berries can be ground to a powder, or ground in a mortar & pestle for more of a presence in a dish.  It can be used to enhance salads, rice and couscous dishes, yogurt-based sauces, vegetables, grilled and barbecued meats, and marinades. Sumac berries are a wonderful substitution for lemons in flavoring a dish. I love using them in my Chicken Piccata recipe when I don’t have any lemons on hand.

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