In continuing with the backyard wild teas, I can't let summer pass by without mentioning this wild lemonade substitute. Sumac grows like a weed in this country. It is a relative to the much hated poison sumac, but as the flowers give way to the fruit, you can't mistake this harmless, small tree for anything else.
The branches are fuzzy, hence the name of this variety. The fuzzy clusters of fruit are what we're after. Watch these from June through September and grab the red ones, as they ripen, but before the rain hits them and washes away the flavor. Soak a couple of clusters in a pitcher of ice-cold water in your refrigerator for one to two hours. Your taste buds will know how long. Keep the water cold to prevent bitterness. Strain the results through a fine strainer, or cloth, and serve sweetened. It has a very lemonade-like flavor.
Since these trees seem to grow almost anywhere, please be careful of pollutants and heavy traffic. I doubt anyone would be upset with you for over picking these giant weeds though. See you on the trail!