16 February 2009

Sumac Attack

A few weeks ago, I spotted a stand at the Union Square farmer's market with several steaming cauldrons. I'm usually overloaded with kabocha, potatoes and parsnips (my newest love), which makes me reluctant to stop for a drink, even on a frigid February day.

But this wasn't spiced apple cider, it was tea. And a type I'd never heard of before.

Sumac tea? Without even closing my eyes, the chaos of gray was covered by a vision towering, voracious trees that covered the hillside beneath my parents' house. The leaves turned a brilliant red each October, outshined only by the plump, clustering crowns of fuzzy fuchsia berries. It grew like a weed, and was treated with as little respect.

But staghorn sumac berries yield a vibrant, tart brew, as Native Americans knew for centuries; it's still colloquially referred to as "Indian tea" in some areas. And not surprisingly for such a deep-colored fruit, sumac is full of antioxidants and vitamin C. Even lugging 15 pounds of root vegetables and the subway entrance right in front of me, how could I resist?

Once again, this is an herbal tea- not a true tea- but it was absolutely outstanding. Even mixed with apple juice to counteract the tartness, the very essence of scarlet still shone with every tangy, warming sip.

It was gone in seconds. And I'm already planning my own sumac harvest the next time I go back home.


Snow-globe said...

Wow. I really like this one! And you can make the tea just from the Sumac in coho?

ana dane said...

i think so. you can taste it first, ok?

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of a certain red tea pot w/white polka dots

Nicole said...

Do recall the name of the vendor at all? I took a quick walk through the market this morning but didn't see it.

ana dane said...

i couldn't see a name anywhere, but it's a big stand right on 14th st., in the southeast corner of the market. they also have big tree-stump cross-sections (maybe cedar blocks?) for sale, and bunches of cherry blossom branches.

no produce, just the trees and the tea. and i've only seen them there on friday.

hope you find them and get to try some!

Anonymous said...

Are you serious! I have not seen these - oh my god - this is to funny! I love sumak - but never thought about having it tea!

great site!