Zaatar - Thymes

During our market day, I had a little surprise. One of the sellers was selling aromatic herbs and among the boxes she was displaying, I spotted a plant that I recognise more than anything. I had to chew on one of the leaves and admire the taste... Indeed, as I was told when I was child, zaatar has the ability to refresh the memory and open up the brain... That is why, as children, we always had a zaatar sandwitch on breakfast, before we headed to a school exam... I wonder if it has ever worked?!
Zaatar plant (Origanum Syriacum Land Thymus Vulgaris L)

But, what is zaatar?
According to slow food Beirut, the name zaatar refers to two different products:
1. The aromatic plant Origanum syriacum Land Thymus vulgaris L. (see photo 1).
2. A mixture of thyme, sumak, toasted sesame seeds, salt and sometimes other spices.
Zaatar, sumac, salt and roasted sesame mixture

This combination of dry herbs and spices is typically eaten mixed with olive oil, used as a garnish for strained yoghurt and other dairy products. It is also the main ingredient in the topping for manaqeesh and fatayer (zaatar pies).
The Middle Eastern zaatar plant is a short shrub, reaching a maximum height of around 30 cm. It is a perennial plant that is easily grown from seed. Thyme can be planted indoors or outdoors. All thymes grow best in light soils since their fine root structure is prone to rot in heavier soils. It does best under partial to full sunlight, and should be planted half a meter apart in the field.
Zaatar flowers mixed with wild pine seeds (7abb Ereish)

The flavor of Middle Eastern zaatar (wild thyme) is largely modulated by its main active ingredient, thymol. It is spicy-sweet; with subtle notes of mint, bay and marjoram. Its aroma is said to be sweet, pungent and earthy. it is usually consumed fresh in salads and with cheeses.
The ancient Greeks embraced the zaatar herb after they discovered the taste of honey made by bees feeding on it. Zaatar honey is popular for its distinctive spicy flavor.
Dry mixed zaatar is processed as follows:
Zaatar is harvested (usually in early summer) and washed in water several times to clean its cottony leaves of accumulated dust and dirt. It is left to dry outdoors in the shade for a period of 3 days, after which it is packaged in bundles which are then left to rest indoors for a further 7-10 days until they are completely dry. The plants are then beaten with a stick in order to detach the leaves. After the separation process, the product is sifted first in a sieve that removes the stalks from the leaves.
Finely ground into thyme powder which is used in cooking and salads, or more coarsely ground and used as a base for the zaatar mix, combined with sumac, roasted sesame seed and salt in equal proportions. Salt is added to taste
. This mixture is then ready for consumption (a salt free mixture can also be produced).

3 kommentarer:

Sjoggfrid sa...

God dag til dere:-))

Dette var morsom og interessant lesning. Takk for det!

Kosmisk hilsen fra meg

Benoît sa...

Hello, If you want to taste the original Lebanese zaatar, you can find it on http://www.artisanatsel.com/ficheproduit-Artisanat-zaatar-melange-mediterraneen-2029.html
This is produced by a small women cooperative in South Lebanon.
Best Regards Benoît

troro - the artists behind sa...

South Lebanon zaatar is the best!
I will be posting some zaatar recipes soon.

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