Rhus coriaria, commonly called elm-leaved sumach, tanner's sumach, or Sicilian sumac is a deciduous shrub to small tree in the Anacardiaceae or Cashew family, native to southern Europe. The dried fruits are used as a spice, particularly in combination with other spices in the mixture called Za'atar.
Caution should be used about consuming sumac (see Toxicity, below). The fruit has a sour taste; dried and crushed, it is a popular spice in the Middle East. Immature fruits and seeds are also eaten.
It has been postulated that the sap and the fruit contain toxins that can cause severe irritation in people who are sensitive to these compounds. Because of its botanical relationship to other urushiol-containing species of the genus Rhus, consumption or contact with any part of the plant have been implicated with allergic reactions. However, such cases have not been documented in medical literature, and unless the material is adulterated, no allergic or toxic reactions occur with regular consumption of Sicilian sumac as a spice.
- Plants for a Future database accessed August 2010
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