Sumac is a spice that is derived from the berries of a bush that grows wild in the Mediterranean. Most commonly, the plant is found in southern Italy, Sicily as well as Iran. The berries are picked, dried and then crushed into a coarse powder which is reddish-purple in colour. Sometimes, the berries are soaked in hot water before they are mashed so as to squeeze out their juice. It is important to note that varieties of sumac, like the shrubs with the white bulb, are not edible and instead, poisonous.
Sumac has a sour, lemony flavour that it almost fruity, and hence, is widely used as a souring agent in countries such as Arabia, Turkey and in the Levant, especially in Lebanon, where it substitutes the use of lemon, vinegar and tamarind. In these areas, it is commonly sued to marinade meat such as fish and chicken before they are grilled. The famous kebabs are also subject to being rubbed with sumac before grilling. Sumac juice is often used in dips and salad dressings apart from being used as a marinade. In powder form, the spice is added in vegetable and chicken casseroles, stews, soups, etc.