This is a blog about the pursuits of Naturalist Alan Russo to incorporate all things Natural, especially Plants, into his daily life. Living close to Nature has always been a passion of mine and I try, with natures help, to live a Healthy lifestyle for myself and for the Earth.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sumac Aide

 Though it is still hot in my part of NC, signs that Fall is on the way are everywhere. My Sumac Plant has grown huge this year and has a prolific amount of Berries. The berries are at the perfect stage to make Sumac Aide.
Berries with white Malic Acid covering.
  The berries of all the red berried Sumacs (poison Sumac has white berries) can be used to make a delicious tart drink that resembles Lemon aide. I love sour stuff so I look forward to the berries every year. What you are after are the berries with a shiny white coating of Malic acid. If you are not sure your Berries have Malic Acid on them take a couple in your mouth and if your mouth shrivels and puckers, you know you have enough! Malic Acid is a naturally occurring chemical in many fruits and vegetables, it is the chemical that makes Apples tart, with Apples being one of the higher sources of Malic Acid in fruits. Malic Acid has many health benefits, one of which is to increase energy in those with Chronic Fatigue. Who couldn't use more Energy! Search the web for the many health benefits of Malic Acid.
  Different Sumacs have varying amounts of Malic Acid on their berries, as do the different Species, amounts also depends on the Environment in which they grow. My Sumac is a Winged Sumac and produces alot of Malic Acid, I have also had good results with Staghorn Sumac and Smooth Sumac. Try to get the berries before a strong rain as Malic Acid is water soluble and much can wash off in the rain.

Soaking the berries in Water
 Collect the berries, taking as little of the stems as possible. Don't forget to lick your fingers when you are done picking for a super tart treat! Take as many berries as you care to and soak them in enough water to cover the berries.  Use cool or warm water for this. Sumac has high amounts of Tannic acid in the stems leaves and roots with the roots having the highest amounts. If you use hot water, you will start to extract this Tannic Acid and your drink will be bitter. Tannic acid is one of the things that make Sumac a Medicinal Plant. Tannic acid is astringent and antiseptic and makes a great skin wash for oozing sores like Poison Ivy.

Finished drink!
While the berries are soaking, agitate the berries frequently to hasten the removal of the Malic Acid. I do this by squishing the berries with my hands or use a potato masher or what ever suites you. Taste the liquid  to see if it is tart enough for you. When it is to your liking, strain the liquid with a fine tea strainer into bottles and refrigerate. At this point, if you feel you got alot of insects or the berries were not as clean as you would have liked them to be, you can boil the liquid to pasteurize it. If you do, you might like to try the drink hot like a tea, it is quite good this way. Add some Honey if you must, but I like it just the way it is.
  You will notice in the photo above the liquid is pink in color. This will vary depending on the species you use. Staghorn Sumac makes the brightest red drink due to its "fuzzy" berries. Because of this, be sure to strain it well with a super fine strainer to get the "hairs" out. Enjoy this great natural drink from Mother Nature!

PS  If you really like this drink and want to have it even after the plant has died back for the winter, you can pick a bunch of berries at their peak and dry them and they should last you all winter.