The delicious history of Za`atar

What do you imagine when you hear the word East? Middle East? Do you think of the tales of Scheherazade «One Thousand and One Night»?

Or the Arabian night from Aladdin?

Oh, imagine a land, it’s a faraway place

Where the caravan camels roam…

…As you wind through the streets at the fabled bazaars

With the cardamom-cluttered stalls


While you haggle the price…

Or do you imagine almond-shaped eyes of oriental beauties?

But as for me, I imagine the aromas of the East in the center of Jerusalem -in the old city everything is literally saturated with the aromas of the east, and one of the strongest is Za`atar.

Za`atar (in Hebrew זעתר)

Very famous spice of Middle Eastern cuisine (especially in Israel), Za`atar is the king of the condiments. It is considered one of the oldest spices in the world.

Za`atar was probably what ancient texts referred to when they mentioned: Hyssop. Some scholars suppose that the Hyssop is marjoram – Origanum maru. This herb of the mint family is common not only in Israel but in all the countries of the Middle East. It could attain a height of 50 to 90 centimeters. Hyssop has been used in herbal medicine.

Za`atar is a wonderful antiseptic and an amazing source of antioxidants. This spice contains tannins, volatile vitamins A and C. In the East, it is believed that itis Za`atar that their inhabitants owe their stress resistance, endurance, and energy. This spice has a beneficial effect on digestion by helping to break down fatty and protein-rich foods. It improves blood circulation, tones the body, increases mental activity, and heals the kidneys. Za`atar also helps people to cope with colds, bronchitis, and runny nose. It also helps to strengthen the nervous system.

Usually, Za`atar is a mix of dried Oregano, Thyme, Marjoram, toasted Sesame seeds, Sumac and Salt.

Za`atar may be red and green. Sometimes these two types of spices are mixed together in different proportions. The difference between the two is that red Za`atar contains more sumac.

Culinary use

Za`atar is often used in cooking. You can mix the dried herbs with Olive Oil and put on a Pita or any familiar Bread. It can then be baked in a hot oven for about 5 – 10 minutes.

One tasty way to enjoy Za`atar is with yogurt for breakfast. Another way it is used is sprinkled on Hummus or Tahini as a delicious, nutritious snack. Za`atar can be used as a seasoning for beef, lamb, chicken, and fish. It is also a zesty choice as a seasoning for any salads. Many like this Middle Eastern Spice for vegetables, rice, potatoes and so on.

This spice is unique because it can be used not only in food but also as a drink. If you put Za`atar in boiling water, you can make herbal tea.

Do you want to get into the Eastern fairy tale and enjoy the aromas of wonderful incense?

Za`atar is very inexpensive. For example, in Israel, 100 grams can be bought from four to ten (4 – 10 shek.) shekels. This is approximately one to three ($ 1-3) dollars! Here in every store, shop and, of course, in markets and bazaars, you can taste food seasoned with this exquisite spice. You will be glad to buy Za`atar for yourself, as well as for friends and relatives. And if you’re unable to locate it in the stores, look for Za`atar in online stores.

Try Za`atar and discover this mysterious world of the East!

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