Tuesday, 16 October 2018

The Vinegar Tree



Vinegar Tree?
Well, that's what they were called when I was small. We had two or three in the bit of the garden that was grass for us to play on. The rest of the "garden" was a builders yard, usually filled with heaps of bricks and huge sand and ballast heaps -this was before the days of builders bags.
The vinegar trees back then were small with branches that arched down to the ground - we could get right underneath. I think this one out the front of the house is old and suffers from being too close to the hedge and lack of moisture.
Their proper name is Stag's Horn Sumach and it's a native of North America. The name comes from the fact that in winter, without leaves the thick twigs resemble the antlers of a stag. The sumach part of the name is thought to come from North American Native people and traditionally a kind of lemonade was made by soaking the fruit in water.

The fruits are also dried to form a red powder called sumac which is used in Lebanese and Turkish cooking adding the flavour of lemon juice which is an acid as is vinegar, so that must be why we always knew them as vinegar trees.
Beginning of autumn is the time to gather the fruit before winter rain washes away the flavour.

They are one of the few trees that go bright orange and red in the winter so have always been popular for gardens. It isn't  a favourite tree of mine except for this time of year for it's colour.

( The photos were taken last week; after the windy weekend the leaves are now all on the ground)

Thank you for the get better soon comments yesterday, I'm still hobbling!

Back Tomorrow
Sue

42 comments:

  1. I've seen the tree - as you say, it is popular - but didn;t know the rest of it. Thanks, that was interesting. Do you harvest the fruit?
    xx

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    1. No I think it's a fiddly job to get the hair bits off the fruit

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  2. Oh, I didn't know sumac was a fruit, nor that it was native to North America. Vinegar tree is a good name - it has a storybook quality to it.

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    1. I haven't heard anyone else calling it by that name so have no idea why we did

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  3. I had one of these taken down earlier this year when my drive was re-done. I don't miss it because I now have so much more space but oh dear! It's suckering everywhere. They are thugs, really.

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    1. Oddly, this one out the front never has suckers. The ones in the garden when I was little certainly did

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    2. I was also warned never to have have one as they are blighters for suckers, they pop up everywhere, real thugs!
      Margaret P

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  4. That is very interesting Sue, because we had one of these trees outside our kitchen window a few houses ago. I never knew its name and didn't bother to find out because we got rid of it as soon as we could. Not long after moving into that house we found new growth from that tree between a path running under the window and the house, also in a few areas in the lawn below the tree which was planted in a raised area. You don't mention that, so did you discover that or are they two seperate trees? I'm sure it was the same as I recognize the cone shape fruit.

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    1. It's odd that this one doesn't have suckers at all - maybe the ground around is too hard.

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  5. We got rid of ours eventually as it suckered so much. We both loved its colour and velvety branches.

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    1. It's only really interesting in the autumn and this one hasn't got any suckers - strangely

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  6. Well, I never knew that about them. We had one in a garden where we lived once, and that suckered everywhere too. A shame as the autumn colour in the leaves is so pretty.

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    1. I didn't know about the flavouring thing until I had a copy of the James Wong book about unusual edibles and it's mentioned again in the Alys Fowler book

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  7. Hope you are feeling better. We had one of those treees and my husband got it taken away.
    Hazel c uk

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  8. I've seen lots of these trees, but have never known what they were or had one for myself. The leaves are a glorious colour at this time of year. What a shame we are having all these high winds and losing so much Autumn colour virtually overnight.

    I don't like vinegar tastes so have never tried Sumac the spice. Have you?

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    1. I meant to add, I hope your back is soon feeling better, I'd say take it easy ... but I guess that's all you can do at the moment. Take care. Xx

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    2. I've never tried the sumac spice, hadn't even heard of it until recently! I'll keep the tree as it's not in the way

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  9. That tree is beautiful. I have never known what it was called and now I do but I am glad I have read the comments regarding suckering else I might have bought one for our front garden.
    Hope your back starts to heal soon.
    Hugs-x-

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    1. The one here hasn't got any suckers but I know that can be a problem.
      Back is getting better slowly thanks

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  10. I have always known it as Rhus Typhina - I never knew it had a common name of Vinegar Tree. You learn something everyday! They are lovely trees in the Autumn with their beautiful leaf colour.
    Hope your back eases soon.

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    1. I've never heard anyone else call it vinegar tree - must have got the name from somewhere?

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  11. Another one here who didn't know what the tree was called - either of those names. Nor did I know that sumac spice comes from it - I have some in the spice cupboard, it has a slightly lemony spicy flavour.

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    1. I've never tried the spice - think I need to now!

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  12. They are common here in Canada and tend to grow by the sides of the roads. I love them at this time of year because of their gorgeous bright red leaves. I don't think anyone really makes sumac tea from them anymore, however. -Jenn

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    1. The "fruit" doesn't really look very appealing to use - especially when they go all brown and mouldy in the rain!

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    2. I have had the tea at Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts, made by the members of the Wampanoag tribe who teach about their tribal culture there. It's tasty, but not a strong taste.

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  13. I think of them as a trash tree. As Jenn said above they grow along the road. I had no idea that they had so many uses or that they were considered specimen trees in England. They do give a color to fall.

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    1. Not very popular here now but they are nice and bright as we don't have as many trees that change colour as there are in the States

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  14. I love the different colour leaves, red is so striking xx

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    1. The leaves didn't last long this year, one windy day and they were gone

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  15. I sprinkle Sumac on my homemade Hummus. We have lots of bushes, but I've never been brave enough to grind my own Sumac.

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    1. According to my book its not an easy job to do - involving hairy bits!

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  16. I had completely forgotten sumac trees - haven't seen one for years. Perhaps I live too far North for them now.

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    1. They aren't popular now - doubt they are available in garden centres

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  17. I never knew they were called vinegar trees or could be used in cooking. I've always liked them though especially at this time of year.

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    1. It might have been only us that called them that name - no idea where it came from

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    2. Apparently the berries are acidic and can be used to intensify the sourness of vinegar - could be the reason for the name?
      KJ

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  18. I have never come across a vinegar tree before. Sorry to hear you are still hobbling, hope you feel better soon.

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  19. Hilde in Germany18 October 2018 at 05:04

    Here in Germany, everybody calls these trees vinegar tree. I didn´t know you could use the fruits. We had one in our garden until a lorry backed into it and flattened it. But we still get suckers even after fifteen years.

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