Oak & Acorn: Staghorn Sumac Berry Lemonade

Bike Rides & Staghorn Sumac Berry Lemonade

It’s the month of August which means you are probably spending most of your time outdoors with your children. My daughter, Thu, and I have been spending a lot of our time at swimming holes, hiking, at pick-your-own farms, taking post-dinner walks and riding our bikes on the bike path and throughout the town.

Summer is a good time for walking around with your kids and teaching them about what surrounds us. Kids seem to spot everything and anything, a lot of times noticing the small things that we adults may seem to have missed. With the weather being so nice, we have been spending a tremendous amount of time outdoors.

A plant that you may be noticing growing in various spots around us right now is the Rhus typhina, the Staghorn Sumac. I first learned that this plant is edible and used for medicinal purposes when I took a foraging walk a while back with local wild foods enthusiast extraordinaire Blanche Derby. I hadn’t used the knowledge I learned about Staghorn Sumac since going on that walk up until a couple weeks ago…

Staghorn Sumac seems to be present all over. I don’t think I can go out for a day and not spot a number of them in various spots. The part of the sumac plant that makes it stand out are the ruby red drupes (see picture above) that look like cones from far away, have many small berries on each of them. They stand out next to their dark green compound leaves, you can’t really miss them. Staghorn Sumac grows in the Midwest and the Northeast. Some Native American tribes used the sumac for medicinal healing treatments and people have also dried and grounded it for use as a spice. Sumac has lots of micro-nutrients, vitamins and minerals, they have a good amount of Vitamin C in them. There are different types of sumac, but this sumac is edible. Not all of them are but the Staghorn Sumac is pretty distinct so as long as you identify them correctly, you are good to go.

We are going to make something that is very familiar to all of us and something that also makes a nice summer refreshment. You can make lemonade out of sumac berries. Mid-August is a great time to harvest the Staghorn Sumac drupes. You can break these off with a knife, but they are also easy enough to just snap off. Thu and I harvested some while on a ride on the bike path where she was able to help snap some of them off by herself.

This is a very easy recipe for kids to help out with, and they’ll really enjoy having this refreshing drink once it’s finished being made. If you want to make a pitcher sized amount, you need to collect about 6 to 8 drupes of sumac berry.

Recipe for Staghorn Sumac Berry Lemonade

  • 6 drupes of Staghorn Sumac berries
  • 1 gallon pitcher or 2 ½ gallon mason jars
  • Sweetener if you like. Maybe maple syrup or agave nectar.
  • Mint leaves for a little extra nice flavor.
  1. First you will need 6 or a little more drupes of the Staghorn Sumac berries.
  2. Then you put the Staghorn Sumac in a large pot and pour the amount of water you’ll be using over the berries. You will let it sit for about four hours. Use cold water when making this. If you use hot water, it may turn out too bitter. Once it’s in the water, if you have a potato smasher you should have your little one smash them to let out the juices. Or you can also crush them with your clean hands.
  3. After the Staghorn Sumac has brewed you will strain it with a cheese cloth or tea strainer.
  4. Try it out before adding sweetener. Thu and I like it without sweetener but if you are in the mood for something more sweet, you should add what you please to it. If you want to add something for a little more taste, add fresh mint leaves. Pour over ice and enjoy!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Leslie Lynn Lucio
Leslie Lynn LucioLeslie is from Texas but has always been drawn to New England. She lives in the town of Northampton and loves living in Western Massachusetts. She spends a lot of time with her five year old and connecting with the community. Her interest include cooking, DIY projects,writing, biking, being outdoors, photography, restoration, food preservation and social activism. She spends some of her time farming when she can and also you can spot her working with the Pedal People.

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