Though one might have heard of poison sumac, it would be difficult to confuse it with the edible kind: the poison variety is a vine with white berries; the edible variety is a conical red fruit that grows on trees. Sumac is widely available and underused, making it a perfect addition to foraging!
- 1 bunch, or about 3 cups, wild asparagus (store bought will do)
- A handful of wild mint leaves (any mint will do)
- 4 to 5 large radishes, chopped into bite-size pieces
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large, thin pita bread, split into 2 rounds
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 tsp dried sumac spice (see method)
- 1 tsp dried or 1/2 tsp fresh oregano
- Salt and pepper
Sumac spice: Harvesting sumac is easy: in August or September, simply clip the ripe, red fruit when the cones are full red and before they are browning. To dry the sumac, place it in a dehydrator overnight or under a hot lamp until the clusters are dry and come away from the cone (oven temperatures are usually too high for this, as the ideal temperature is 125°F to 150°F). Pulse the dried sumac in a food processor until it becomes a fine-ish powder. Pass this powder through a medium mesh sieve to remove any remaining debris. Sumac spice will keep for about 1 year in a well-sealed jar and can be used in many different recipes, including all sorts of Middle Eastern dishes.
Pita chips: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil (or more) over the 2 very thin pita bread rounds and sprinkle with salt to taste. Bake until crisp, about 10 minutes. When cool, break the rounds into bite-size pieces and set aside.
Sumac dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the 1/2 cup of olive oil, lemon juice, sumac spice, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste until well combined. Set aside until ready to use.
To make the salad, chop the fresh asparagus into bite-size pieces and place in a large salad bowl. (If using store-bought asparagus, before chopping, blanch it just until tender but still al dente, about 2 minutes, and then immediately drain and rinse under cold water.)
Scatter the mint over the asparagus, tearing the larger leaves, if desired. Toss together with the chopped radishes. Pour the desired amount of dressing overtop, and serve with a healthy garnish of crunchy pita chips placed on top just before eating.
Joanna Notkin is a designer at heart, and food is her passion. With an eye for detail and a love of all things seasonal and local, Joanna approaches food in a way that is delicate and thoughtful. She brings together the flavours of each ingredient while honouring the fact that we truly eat with our eyes.