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Lemonade berries mature from green to red and have a grey, fuzzy exterior that will shed over time. They have a flattened shape like that of a corn kernel and are roughly 2 centimeters in diameter. They grow in small clusters and are easily harvested when ripe; however contact with the sap of the plant may cause skin irritation. Lemonade berry juice has a tart, citrusy flavor that comes from the high levels of citric acid in the fruit.
Lemonade berries are found growing during the spring and summer months.
The Lemonade berry is botanically known as Rhus integrifolia and is in the sumac family. It is also commonly known as Lemonade sumac. It grows wild among the chaparral in Southern California, and is not cultivated commercially. Lemonade berries take their name from their tart, citrusy flavor.
Lemonade berries contain vitamin C.
Lemonade berries are not typically consumed whole, as the small hairs on their surface can cause irritation to the stomach. Steep unwashed berries in warm or cold water for up to 24 hours to produce Lemonade berry "juice". The resulting liquid can be used in jams, jellies, syrups, and candies. The berries can be dried and used whole in salads, yogurts and hummus. They can also be ground into a powder and used as either a flavoring, a flour substitute, or a thickener for soups. An ancient remedy for sore throats and cold sores is made from Lemonade berries, bark or leaves steeped in cold water. Fresh Lemonade berries can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Dried berries can be stored in an airtight container for up six months.
Both the Cahuilla and Kumeyaay tribes native to Southern California ate Lemonade berries raw. They soaked berries in water to make a beverage, ground them into a powder, and used them for medicinal purposes.
Lemonade berries are native to Southern California and can be found growing just over the Arizona border. The plant grows well in both dry and coastal environments; the larger bushes grow inland and the smaller plants grow closer to the coast.