Zatar (Origanum syriacum), also known as Syrian oregano or bible hyssop, is an herbaceous perennial in the Lamiaceae (mint) family. A bushy herb, it grows 30-40 cm (12-16 inches) high, with oblong-ovate and slightly hairy leaves that are 10-15 cm (4-6 inches) long. It produces white flowers in spring and is very aromatic. A native of the Mediterranean, zatar is indispensable in Lebanese cuisine and is used medicinally. Some bible scholars believe zatar to be the 'hyssop' mentioned in the bible. As zatar is an Arabic word, it is translated into English with varying spellings (including za'tar, za'atar and zahtar). This common name is also used to refer to other plant species in the Laminaceae such as Satureja thymbra, Thymbra spicata and Coridothymus (Thymus) capitatus, all of which share a similar flavor profile and are used in the same ways. Zatar is the most economically important wild plant in Lebanon, where it grows wild in the mountains. As tons are harvested and consumed every year, it has recently been brought into cultivation. Used fresh or dried and crushed, zatar is a popular culinary herb and is used in the production of mankouche flatbread. A popular seasoning throughout the Middle East, zatar is transformed into the eponymous spice mix via the addition of sumac, sesame seeds and salt and pepper. Recipes vary, and a distinctly Palestinian variant replaces the sesame with caraway seeds.
(Barakat 2007; Constantino 2009; Musseman 2007; Khairallah 2010; Missouri Botanical Garden, n.d.; The Plant List 2010)
- Barakat, I. (2007). Recipes of the West Bank Olive Harvest [Online]. NPR. Available from: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16530921 [Accessed 18 May 2013].
- Constantino, L. (2009). All About Za'atar with Recipe for Za'atar Herb Blend and 5 Recipes Using Za'atar [Online]. Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska. Available from: http://medcookingalaska.blogspot.co.uk/2009/02/recipe-for-zaatar-spice-blend-with-5.html [Accessed 18 May 2013].
- Musselman, L. J. (2007). Figs, dates, laurel, and myrrh: plants of the Buble and the Quran. Portland: Timber Press.
- Missouri Botanical Garden. (n.d.). Origanum syriacum [Online]. Available from: http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/plant-finder/plant-details/kc/f247/origanum-syriacum.aspx [Accessed 18 May 2013].
- The Plant List. (2010). Origanum syriacum L. [Online]. Available from: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl/record/kew-143930 [Accessed 18 May 2013].
- Khairallah, S. (2010). Plant story - helping to conserve Origanum syriacum. RBG Kew [Online]. Available from: http://www.kew.org/news/origanum-syriacum.htm [Accessed 18 May 2013].
Distribution in Egypt
Mountainous Southern Sinai (Location: St.Katherine - SpecificLocation: Wadi shagg musa), Galala Desert , Isthmic Desert.
Life History and Behavior
Availability in Egypt
Status in Egypt
|This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the Hebrew Wikipedia. (April 2013)|
Origanum syriacum; syn. Majorana syriaca (also Origanum maru, although this primarily refers to a hybrid of O. syriacum), bible hyssop, Biblical-hyssop, Lebanese oregano or Syrian oregano, is an aromatic perennial herb in the mint family, Lamiaceae. It is a preferred primary ingredient in the spice mixture za'atar, and the plant may also be called za'atar. In Modern Hebrew, it is called ezov, and it may have been the ezov of Classical Hebrew. In many English translations of the Bible, ezov is rendered as hyssop, hence the common name bible hyssop. However, in English, hyssop generally refers to a different plant. Origanum syriacum is native to the Middle East.
In Egypt, Origanum syriacum subsp. sinaicum is a very rare plant grown on stony grounds in Sinai Peninsula including the coastal Mediterranean strip. From the conservation point of view it is an endangered plant. A study of the agronomic and chemical potential of O. syriacum subsp. sinaicum showed that it was superior to O. vulgare subsp. hirtum in herb and oil yields per acre. They also found that the major constituents in the essential oil of O. syriacum subsp. sinaicum was dominated by thymol, gamma-terpinene and p-cymene in a descending manner. 
- "Origanum syriacum". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) online database. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
- "Origanum syriacum L.". The Plant List. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
- "Za'atar, a renowned herb blend, and events inspired by it". Vegetable Gardener. 29 September 2010.
- "Origanum syriacum Bible Hyssop". PFAF Plant Database. Plants For A Future. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
- "Origanum syriacum". Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
- Khairallah, Simon (1 January 2010). "Plant story - helping to conserve Origanum syriacum". Kew News. Kew Royal Botanic Gardens. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
- Boulos, Loutfy (2002). Flora of Egypt. Volume 3: Verbenaceae-Compositae. Cairo, Egypt: Al-Hadara Publishing. p. 12. ISBN 9775429250.
- Shalaby, A.S.; Elhefnawy, N.; Ghanem, K.; A. EL-Ghareeb, A. (2011). "Agronomic and Chemical Comparison between Origanum vulgare ssp. hirtum and the Cultivated Plants of O. syriacum ssp. sinaicum". Journal of Essential Oil Bearing Plants (M/s Har Krishan Bhalla & Sons) 14 (4). ISSN 0972-060X. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
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