Sumac (also spelt as Sumaq) is an ancient spice (herb) dating back to Roman times grown primarily around the East Mediterranean countries (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Greece and Cyprus).
It is dark purple/red berries in colour and has to be handled with gloves when it is being picked off the shrub trees, as it creates itchiness on the hands.
Sumac is a superfood spice/herb with a tangy lemony sour and acidic taste which has been used in Lebanese cooking for centuries and is a main herb ingredient in every household. It is used in all types of cooking from salads like tabouleh, fattouch, to sprinkling on eggs, or tomatoes to using as a base for basting steaks, chicken, and kebabs. It gives flavour and compliments other herbs, and is a key ingredient added to the Zaatar mix.
Sumac has amazing health benefits and properties.
Antioxidants: full and packed with antioxidants. It is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory spices in the world and has the ability to neutralise free radicals that can cause cancer, and heart disease.
A beneficial ingredient for those with type 2 diabetes. Studies in the USA have shown that daily intake over a 3-month period does lower the risk of cardiovascular disease among people with type 2 diabetes.
Zaatar, is similar to sumac, and is in every Lebanese home, and is a staple diet of every member of the family. The blends of zaatar recipe are secret but the core ingredients are thyme, sumac and sesame, other ingredients are family secrets to keep the mystique of it.
Zaatar is used both as a spice/herb and mixing it with olive oil gives a paste to make mana’eesh bi zaatar (simplyflo flat pies) – which is a staple snack/breakfast baked in ovens or bakeries and ideally served hot.
The health benefits, like sumac are amazing: Zaatar has been shown to improve the immune system, boost skin health, build strong bones, increase circulation, clear out the respiratory tracts, soothe inflammation, boost energy, improve mood, aid memory, and treat chronic diseases.
My family and I have zaatar everyday and sumac is used in practically everything we cook.
Why not try them at ‘simplyflo – the art of Lebanese cuisine’, we use sumac in many of our vegan dishes, which we make the authentic way.