(Caution – try just a little at a time. Make sure you aren’t allergic to this plant.)

It was in the month of July and Troop 44 was at summer camp at Camp Chief Little Turtle on the Anthony Wayne Area Council Boy Scout Reservation just outside of Angola, Indiana. It was hot and the boys were thirsty. Most of them had already spent their camp allowance on pop, candy, camp T-shirts, and fishing paraphernalia. The boys were thirsty but not for water; they wanted something more like a cool refreshing soda. What to do? What to do?

Having been raised in a time and place where our family made most of the things we used or wore and gathered a lot of our ‘food’ from the woods, I remembered what my mom used to do in a similar situation. I suggested we make pink lemonade. The boys were interested and asked how they could help.

I noticed a lot of staghorn sumac trees in the area surrounding our campsite. I told them to grab their baseball hats and fill them with the red fuzzy berries and bring them back to camp. They put them in a large kettle from our chuck box. They followed orders excitedly wondering what I was going to do next.

I had them pick over the berries and remove all the leaves, twigs, and debris. Next I showed them how to crush the berries and then told them to pour some ice cold water over them (1 cup of berries to 1 quart of water) and to put on the cover. I told them to let the crushed berries and water soak for a while.

Meanwhile I asked one of the boys to get some sugar from the chuck box. After what seemed to be a too-long wait for the berries to give up their color and flavor, we tasted it, strained it, and added just enough sugar to make it taste just like pink lemonade – not too tart but not too sweet either. The boys loved it and one boy even filled his canteen to take home to show his parents. When we left camp for home the next Saturday there wasn’t a berry left on any tree within 100 yards of our camp. The birds and deer would have to go elsewhere for their snack.


NOTE: Staghorn Sumac (Rhus. Typhina) is easily recognized in any season because of the close resemblance of its velvety twigs and branches to deer antlers while they are still in velvet. The berries are red, hard, and fuzzy. The berries of the poisonous sumac are white.

Latest posts by Ray McCune (see all)

Ray McCune

He has lived in Waynedale for over 45 years. He has taken to his lifelong dream of being a full time Outdoor Freelance Writer and author. Ray has authored one book and has written Kampfire Kookin' as well as other outdoors articles for the newspaper. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer