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What is sumac?

July 2, 2015

In the British Library restaurant today, I had a tomato and sumac salad, simply because I was intrigued by sumac. I’d never heard of it before. When I got the salad I was none the wiser, because as well as tomatoes there was cucumber and onions and a dressing, but no ingredient I could identify as a likely candidate for sumac.
As so often happens, I came across this new word very shortly afterwards; it occurs in Ben Lerner’s excellent novel 10:04, which I am reviewing for the Independent on Sunday. At this point I realised I would have to look it up, so I did, and discovered that it’s a mediterranean spice that tastes like lemon. So my vocabulary is now one word richer.
My review of 10:04 will be in the IoS on 19 July.

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  1. Sumac is a tree often mentioned in American novels, along with cat-tails and other wildlife that you’d have to look up to know what it is.

  2. Thanks, Duncan!

  3. Mary permalink

    I know this is late, but sumac is not a tree. Well, at least, people do not think of a tree in America. It is a really nasty plant from the South that gives you a rash and blisters if you touch it; it is a relative of poison ivy and the itching is unbearable!

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