"Za'atar" ( _ar. زعتر; also spelled satar, zahatar or zatr) is a mixture of herbs and spices used as a condiment with Middle Eastern origins. The name of the condiment shares the Arabic name of the herb used as the main ingredient.cite web|title=Za'atar|author=Aliza Green|publisher=CHOW|url=|accessdate=2008-03-09]

Latin names for the herbs called za'atar include "Origanum majorana" (sweet marjoram), "Origanum syriacum" (also known as Biblical hyssop, Syrian oregano and wild marjoram), and "Thymus capitatus" (thyme).cite book|title=World Spice Plants|author=Johannes Seidemann|page=365|year=2005|isbn=3540222790] Za'atar barri ("wild za'atar") is identified as "Origanum vulgare" which in English can refer to European oregano, oregano, pot marjoram, wild marjoram, winter majoram, and wintersweet. [ Sorting Origanum Names] ] Both oregano and marjoram are closely related Mediterranean plants of the Labiatae family which also includes mint and sage, so it is unsurprising that these herbs are commonly used as substitutes for one another. [ Za'atar:On Language] ]

Za'atar is generally prepared using ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, or some combination thereof, mixed with toasted sesame seeds, and salt. Some varieties may add savory, cumin, coriandercite book|title=Margaret Roberts' A-Z Herbs: Identifying Herbs, How to Grow Herbs, the Uses|author=Margaret Roberts|page=83|publisher=Struik|isbn=1868724999|url=] or fennel seed. A Lebanese variety of Za'atar usually contains sumac berries, and has a distinct dark red color.

Za'atar is popular both in cooking and as a condiment in Armenia, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, the Palestinian territories, Syria, and Turkey. It is eaten for breakfast alongside a cheese made of yogurt with bread throughout the Arab world, most often in Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria.cite book|title=The Migrant's Table: Meals and Memories in Bengali-American Households|author=Krishnendu Ray|page=154|year=2004|publisher=Temple University Press|isbn=1592130968|url=] cite web|title=Recipes of the West Bank Olive Harvest|url=|date=November 21 2007|accessdate=2008-03-14]


Za'atar has been used along with other spiced salts as a staple in Arab cuisine from medieval times to the present.cite book|title=Middle Eastern Kitchen|author=Ghillie Basan|page=27|year=2007|publisher=Hippocrene Books|isbn=0781811902|url=] cite journal|volume=Volume 58, Issue 3|month=September | journal=Economic Botany|pages=pp. 330–353|title=History and Lore of Sesame in Southwest Asia|author=Dorothea Bedigian|url=|doi=10.1663/0013-0001(2004)058 [0330:HALOSI] 2.0.CO;2|format=abstract|year=2004]

For Israeli Jews, za'atar ( _he. זעתר,) used to be an exotic treat associated with visits to Arab bakeries. Commercial production of the plant in Israel has made it "an integral element in Israeli cuisine."cite web|url=|title=Hyssop: Adding Spice to Life in the Middle East|date=1998-07-01|publisher=Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs] Some Israeli companies market it commercially as "hyssop" or "holy hyssop"; however, "Hyssopus officinalis" is never found in the wild in Israel, whereas "Origanum vulgare" is extremely common. According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the country's "wild hyssop" was on the verge of extinction due to over-harvesting and it was declared a protected species in 1977. Ronit Vered of Ha'aretz writes that for Arab citizens of Israel whose families who have picked wild herbs like za'atar for hundreds of years and who learned from their ancestors how to care for the yield of future years, the law "is considered almost anti-Arab."cite web|title=Forbidden Fruit|url=|accessdate=2008-03-14]

In the "Politics of Food" (2004), Lien and Nerlich explain how "Tastes, smells, plants and food are the anchors of memory, invoking a much wider context," noting that for Palestinian refugees, plants serve as signifiers of the house, village, and region from which they hailed. cite book|title=The Politics of Food|author=Marianne E. Lien, Brigitte Nerlich|year=2004|publisher=Berg Publishers|isbn=1859738532|pages=pp. 148, 149|url=,M1]



Za'atar is used as a seasoning for meats and vegetables. It can be mixed with olive oil to make a spread called "za'atar-wu-zayt" as a dip for the sesame bread rings known as "ka'ak." Za'atar can also be spread on a dough base and baked as a bread, in which case it is called manaeesh bi zaatar.cite book|title=Syria & Lebanon|author=Terry Carter, Lara Dunston, Andrew Humphreys|page=68|year=2004|publisher=Lonely Planet|isbn=1864503335|url=] It can be sprinkled on labneh (yogurt that has been drained until it becomes a tangy, creamy cheese). Za'atar is often sprinkled on hummus or served with olive oil as a spread or dip.cite web|publisher=Houston Chronicle|date=November 9 1996|accessdate=2008-03-09|title=Diversity in the dining room helps ring in Israel's new year|author=Joan Nathan|url=] It can also be used to spice meat and vegetables and can be mixed with salt, rolled into balls and preserved in oil, or dried in the sun.


In Lebanon, there is a belief that this particular spice mixture makes the mind alert and the body strong. For this reason, children are encouraged to eat a za'atar sandwich for breakfast before an exam.cite web|title=Zaatar|publisher=Recipe Zaar|author=Aglaia Kremezi|url=]

Maimonides (Rambam), a medieval rabbi and physician who lived in North Africa and Egypt, prescribed za'atar as an antiseptic, a cure for intestinal parasites, a cold remedy, loss of appetite and flatulence. Rubbing the sides of the head with za'atar oil was believed to reduce headaches.Fact|date=August 2008

ee also


External links

* [ Za'atar: On Language]
* [ The Zing of Za'atar]


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