This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
In some of the earlier numbers of the Gardener's Monthly we pointed out the absurdity of sending so much money to Europe for Sumac when we have quite as good an article in abundance wild at home. It is among the most pleasant of the reflections on our past labors to see how the collection of American Sumac approaches the rank of an important national industry. When American forestry reaches the dignity of a first-class business, as we hope yet to see it reach, we expect Sumac to be one of the little items which is to make the forest yield a revenue long before the timber is fit for railroad ties.
However until this time comes we must do the best we can by Sumac in itself. The following paragraph from the Prairie Farmer gives some additional information to that already recorded in our pages:
"In relation to the matter of Sumac, and its preparation for market, which a correspondent in Pennsylvania asks us to investigate, and the proper manner of preparing it for market, previously published in the Prairie Farmer, Mr. Joseph H. Bryant, No. 2, 619 Main street, Richmond, Va., writes us that he is paying seventy-five cents per hundred pounds at the mill there, and adds: ' The leaves only are wanted, but to facilitate the gathering of it, the small stems on which leaves grow can be stripped from the stalk, as in pulling corn blades. It must be free from sticks, sand and berries. Dry it in the shade. If exposed to the sun, dew and rain, it will turn yellow and become worthless. Spread it on a floor, and turn it morning and evening until it is perfectly dry. Do not pack it in bags or pile in bulk, until it is thoroughly dry. Be careful it does not heat. When Sumac is properly cured it is of a bright green color.'
The editor of the Shoe and Leather Reporter, New York, writes as follows: ' The leaf and leaf stems only are used, and all large stems should be thrown out, as only the leaf stem has any tanning strength. It should be gathered in this way: Break off the parts of the bush containing the leaves, but do not gather the blossoms or berries. Some gatherers allow the Sumac to wilt a few hours in the sun, while others convey it immediately into the shade or under cover. Cure it under shelter, to preserve its color and strength. When dried, by spreading out, it should be thrashed with a flail, when the leaves and stems will break up fine, and all the large stems should be raked out. As to the use of and demand for the article, we can only say that it has been a staple product for the past ten years, the prices varying with the amount of production and the quotations for Sicily Sumac, with which it is always a competitor to some extent, although it brings usually only about three-quarters the price of the latter.
Large quantities of Sumac are used in Lynn, Mass.' "