Edible sumacs are botanically related to cashews and mangoes. Edible sumacs are also related to poison sumac (Rhus vernix), which has drooping, white berry clusters and shiny leaves. Poison sumac can produce rashes and itching in people with a sensitivity, and should be learned so you can avoid it.
|smooth sumac berries|
The berries of the smooth sumac can be gathered to make a spice mixture used in the Middle East known as za'atar. The berries are ground with a mortar and pestle with oregano, salt, toasted sesame seeds and thyme. The spice can be added to meats or brushed onto pita breads. Robert also like to chew on the new spring shoots of sumac that are tender and green. They are peeled and cut to make sure the tough center has not developed and eaten raw.
Here's a link of Russ Cohen discussing sumac late last autumn.
|smooth sumac ripe berry heads|