A reader in Massachusetts describes how his family collects sumac berries to make tart sumac lemonade, or sumac-ade as they call it.
My family and I like to pick the small clusters of red fuzzy berries that grow on the top of staghorn, smooth, and winged sumac trees to make a kind of lemonade. The clusters ripen around mid-August. Sumac-ade is my name for free, homemade pink lemonade.
To make sumac lemonade, pick about a dozen red clusters. Then rub, crunch, and squeeze them in about a gallon of cold water for five to 10 minutes to release the flavor. Next, drape a piece of cheesecloth over a bowl, and strain the liquid. Then add sweetener to the liquid to taste — but not so much that you lose the acidic taste of the sumac-ade. Serve over ice.
Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) is found in the upper Midwest and Northeast, winged sumac (Rhus copallinum) in the East and South, and smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) prefers all of the east and central United States and western locations. These non-poisonous sumacs grow in open and edge habitats. Poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix) is found all over the eastern United States, in wetlands, and along streams.
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