It’s foraging time.

That means I’ll be out in the parks collecting sumac, raspberry leaves, walnuts and goldenrod to dry for my inks and dyes through the winter.

I appreciate that the dye plants I use are polyvalent, offering culinary and medicinal properties as well as their amazing colour.

Sumac is native to North America and once you have eyes for it you’ll find abundantly available in Toronto and Southern Ontario.  It is an interesting shrub as it plays an important role in the ecosystem and in succession growth.

sumac tree

You will recognize it by its cone shape cluster of bright scarlet fuzzy berries that form mid-summer and remain on its branches through the winter.

Here’s a simple way you can enjoy this season’s harvest:
Forager’s Sumac-ade Home-brew

sumac tea 1collect sumac berry clusters from a location that is not exposed to excessive pollution (think  parks not railway tracks)

  • When foraging from nature, it is critical to leave a larger percentage behind than you collect.  Birds, bees and insects feed and seeds need to sow.
  • place a few berry clusters in a large mason jar or glass tea pot filled with cold water  (hot water extracts tannins and changes sumac’s properties)
  • infuse with sunlight for a couple of hours or days depending on your desired strength to draw out the flavours
  • strain liquid, add honey if desired & refrigerate
  • ready to drink!

sumac tea 2
Sumac-ade or as it is often called sumac lemonade has a citrus like flavour.  It is said to be excellent for lowering blood-sugar.  My good friend Denise Williams, an herbalist by training and proprietor of Matter Company related that, ingested, it is high in vitamin C, is supportive to the immune system and is a general tonic.  She uses sumac berries in her “Blush” body scrub for its exfoliant and antioxidant properties.

Staying connected to natural cycles and organic processes is so vital for our collective well being!