Sumac Season

This sweltering morning I wandered the farmlands of central New Jersey, searching for the rusty, velvety, conical drupes of the wily Staghorn Sumac. The handsome, vaguely Egyptian-looking tree is considered a roadside weed by most civilians, but to those of us hip to the North American Palate Scene, it’s an annual treat. When a half dozen of these fruits are wrapped in cheesecloth and steeped in ice-cold water for about an hour, you get a tart, refreshing pink lemonade. It is also used as a food seasoning by my Turkish neighbors, so I supply them with this fruit every Summer. After poaching my fill of sumac from farm thickets (haven’t been shot at yet!), I stopped by the meadow at Bartram’s Garden. The good folks at Bartram’s Garden graciously allowed me to pick some more sumac so I could complete my ten-pound harvest for the gents at Franklin Fountain, who are going to try their hand at making a sorbet from them. I’ll make an announcement if or when they offer the sumac sorbet to the public. Stay tuned!

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