By: Ann Murray-Dunning
The ancient sumac - dried berries that are ground into a coarse powder that bursts with flavor - has been underappreciated and misunderstood in American cooking, often connected to its poisonous herbal cousin, poison ivy.
Sumac is a souring agent that’s an excellent substitute for lemon or vinegar, and is great to use on kebabs, fish or chicken it’s been used to add tangy, fresh flavors in Lebanese, Syrian, Armenian, and Iranian cooking for many millennia, and was a staple in ancient street food marketplaces.
In fact, ancient Greek physicians knew it for its healing qualities as an astringent, antiseptic and tonic by the Romans. Modern research the ancient sumac - dried berries that are ground into a coarse powder that bursts with flavor - has been underappreciated and misunderstood in American cooking, often connected to its poisonous herbal cousin, poison ivy.
Only recently have chefs begun to use it in cuisine creations and it’s one of the few grocery store salad dressings custom-made for people on the Mediterranean Diet.
And now, two women food startup founders hailing from Egypt and Armenia have bottled this 2,000 year old plant and turned it into a delicious, citrusy, and clean salad dressing.
Founder Tenny Avanesian could not find the simple, whole food dressings she knew growing up in her family’s Armenian kitchen where she was accustomed to homemade lemon-based creations. At the market she’d find soy-based, or heavy, creamy dressings, with a long list of ingredients, hidden sweeteners, canola oil - and worse.
She developed Lemonette in 2015, now carried in 150 stores throughout California and Arizona and online, where it received top food honors from Amazon.com.
Lemonette’s CEO, Jehan Agrama was a 30-year Hollywood veteran film producer, and founding member of GLAAD, the pioneering organization that was pivotal in accelerating acceptance for the LGBTQ community in the entertainment industry. She is originally from Cairo, Egypt.
Its latest flavor is Mediterranean Herb, which adds an earthy, tart and almost minty kick to savory salads, kebabs and Mediterranean appetizers. It has fewer than 10 ingredients, and no sugar.
Each Lemonette flavor is Non GMO Project Verified, gluten-free, canola-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, soy-free, vinegar-free, no artificial colors/preservatives, vegan, and has zero cholesterol - making it the perfect food for people with food sensitivities or allergies.