Monday, August 23, 2010

Sumac-ade

I took another foraging course with Leda Meredith in Prospect Park this weekend. There was a fair bit of overlap between what we found this week with the plants we talked about in June, but some new stuff too. Like sumac, the berries of which are covered with a water-soluble, deliciously acidic substance. When Leda did her 250-mile challenge, she used sumac as a substitute for lemon.

I wasn't sure what kind of proportion to go for, so I put my handful of berries into a cereal bowl of cool water and swished and rubbed them until the berries were tasteless.
There was a fair bit of leaf matter and whatnot along for the ride, so I strained it through cheesecloth into a glass.
It tasted like water with the juice of about half a lemon added, roughly that degree of tartness. The flavor was pretty comparable, actually. I don't know that I would have questioned it if you had told me that's what it was, but since I did know, I'd say that the flavor was ever so slightly darker than lemon. A teeny bit musky. Not quite as sunshiney. Delicious. I liked it unsweetened, but I can see where adding a little honey or maple syrup would be swell. And there are a lot of interesting cocktail possibilities.

That's one thing I really like about playing with wild foods: getting to try things that aren't commercially available. We were talking about that on Saturday, in the context that acorn flour is so fantastically time-consuming to make happen that it will pretty much never be available for purchase, so if you want to know what it tastes like, you have to do the multiple boils with many changes of water and peeling and grinding and drying yourself. I *do* want to know what it tastes like, though word is that this summer has been too dry for a good acorn harvest. I'm thinking acorn crepes when I get around to this someday; you only need a cup of flour and don't have to worry about them not rising. In the meantime, I am super psyched for the October session: mushrooms and nuts.

1 comment:

Martha said...

Oh, now you have renewed my interest in acorn flour. My in-laws up in the Berkshires have loads of oak trees. I'll see how good/bad the crop is and if there are enough to take from the forest critters I'll gather some for the both of us this weekend. There are also loads of oaks in Prospect Park with fewer wild animals needing the acorns to survive the winter.