Greek name and pronunciation:
At the market:
Ground sumac is a dark red-burgundy color. As a dried berry, ground sumac has a nutty texture when used dry. It has a tart, sour lemon taste.
Origin, History, and Mythology:
2,000 years ago, the Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides (c.40-90 AD) wrote in his voluminous "De Materia Medica" ("On Medical Matters") about the healthful properties of sumac - primarily as a diuretic and anti-flatulant when it was "sprinkled among sauces" and mixed with meat. Dioscorides served in Roman Emperor Nero's armies as physician, pharmacologist, and botanist.
One practice of ancient Rome continues today in certain cuisines: sumac berries are boiled in water, drained, and pressed to extract their essential oils. The oil is then mixed with either olive oil or vinegar, depending on the type of condiment sauce being made. The sumac oil or sumac vinegar is then used much the same as current day vinegar and olive oil.
North American indigenous peoples (Indians) used two native species of sumac - Rhus glabra and Rhis aromatica - to prepare a concoction similar to beer.