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  • Writer's pictureRobert Adams

Popular Spices 2023

IT TOOK AN ARTICLE IN THE WSJ to perk my curiosity about culinary uses for wild Staghorn Sumac. I have never used the spice but was intrigued that it headed the list of eight recommended spices by a noted culinary writer, Reem Kassis.

Her list included: Sumac, Dried Mint, Cumin, Coriander, Black Pepper, Aleppo Pepper, Cinnamon, and Aniseed. She gives a summary of the attributes of each spice. “These eight spices are all you really need in your summer spice rack. Mix and match endlessly to punch up, brighten and otherwise enhance both sweet and savory recipes, bringing depth and complexity to even the simplest meals.”

My own starting point is an assortment of about seventy-five various spices that have made it through many of my moves. I shall use this list and start anew - how refreshing is that!

Here it is August, and the wild Sumac shrubs are nearly everywhere in my countryside landscape. They feature their red conical spheres (pictured) that help define the plant. It is these fruiting bodies that contain the berries (drupes) that will be dried that have caught on in New York cooking circles. This news usually portends that they will begin to appear in recipes in Michigan in 2025. Maybe I can get a jump on them.

I was determined to search one of my back roads and snip a few Sumac clusters to learn firsthand how to dry and process them. It must be easier than finding morels which have been my only real experience in the foraging world. Not a quarter mile from my loft I found a group of three clumps of wild Sumac with hundreds of pointed blossoms. A few snips and my gallon plastic zip bag became filled with my harvest. That was easy.

This article has sent me on a new adventure, and I thank Ms. Kassis for her knowledge and recommendations.

It was time to clean my cupboard.

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