Plant Description

Origanum syriacum

Origanum syriacum

Za'atar is a perennial herb related to the well-known culinary oregano. It has soft, furry, grey-green leaves with a unique odour and taste, described as a mixture of sweet marjoram, thyme and oregano. It grows about 40 cm tall. It is native to the Mediterranean, so likes a fairly dry, sunny position. Like many Mediterranean plants, it doesn't like humidity or wet summer weather and demands good drainage. It does well in a terracotta pot. It may die off after a few years - so it is a good idea to take a few cuttings as a precaution. Za'atar is used in Middle Eastern cooking, to flavour dips, breads, labneh and soups, and as a seasoning for meat and vegetable dishes. Commercially sold 'za'atar' is not usually comprised of the dried leaves of this herb, but a mixture of herbs to approximate its taste, along with toasted sesame seeds, sumac and a few other ingredients. Za'atar is regarded as an endangered plant in the wild. It is considered to possibly be the plant referred to as 'hyssop' in the Hebrew Bible. Some other herbs have also been called zaatar, but Origanum syriacum is considered to have the best claim on the name!

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Origanum syriacum
Plant Family: Lamiaceae

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