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  • Writer's pictureMj Pettengill


Updated: Aug 17, 2022

Staghorn Sumac Lemonade
Staghorn Sumac Lemonade

'Tis the season for sumac. Did you know that you can make a refreshing beverage with the berries?

As always, positively identify plants before interacting. In this case, we are referring to the deep red berries in a cone-shaped cluster of the Staghorn Sumac plant. Do not confuse it with Poison Sumac, which is easy because Poison Sumac does not produce red berries, and the leaves have different characteristics.

Crafting a refreshing wild beverage such as this is straightforward. If you were blindfolded and tasted Sumac Lemonade, you would think it was an authentic citrus lemonade.

Staghorn Sumac is an ancient medicinal plant with antioxidant properties and significant levels of Vitamin C. It has been used for medicine dating back to the original Indigenous Peoples of this land. However, this article is strictly about the beverage.

Staghorn Sumac
Staghorn Sumac


* Fill a jug with cool water and set aside so that it reaches room temperature—not too cold.

* Gather enough clusters of berries to fill a bowl. Of course, this depends on how much you want to make.

* Follow the wildcrafter’s promise/pledge when taking anything from nature. I am referring to not stripping or removing too many plants or plant parts. Leave a wild place better or the same, never worse.

* For me, depending on the size of the tree and the number of clusters, I will not take more than two per tree. As I mentioned, it’s a call to make when assessing a tree. 

* Before cutting, state your gratitude and intention—a way of asking permission.

Something like this works:

“I am grateful that you have volunteered, that you showed up in strength and beauty, and offer medicinal properties. I will take what I need and no more. Thank you.” The pledge can be spoken aloud or in your head. 

Trees/plants are living things. They cannot run away when you come at them with pruners. It’s essential to ensure that you do so mindfully when you take a part of or an entire plant. Always set your intentions and know what you are doing.

* I use hand pruners and cut just below the bottom of the stalk at the base.  

* Fill the bowl with the berry clusters. For more flavor, break the clusters and take away any green, but you can leave the berries on the stems. 

* Pour just enough water to cover the clusters.

* Steep for two to three hours, according to your preference. Some only steep for an hour, and some steep for over eight.

* During this time, crush the berries by hand or with a masher.

* Using a coffee filter or layered cheesecloth, strain the liquid. You may want to do this more than once to eliminate the small hairlike particles or pieces of stem. (I am not bothered by them.)

* Bavo! You have crafted a wild infusion—a refreshing, healthy, fruity delight. I do not sweeten. Instead, I add spearmint, lemon balm, and red clover blossom. Use your imagination. Embellish with your favorite mints or blossoms; if desired, sweeten to taste and refrigerate.

Note: Those with sensitive skin or severe allergies may react to Staghorn Sumac. This is not recommended for women who are pregnant or might be pregnant. Always check with your medical practitioner.

© Original article posted 08/26/2019


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