Arabic: Za‘tar, Sa‘tar, Hasha’ Thymus vulgaris; Lamiaceae (Mint Family)
When dining in the Middle East, it is customary to dip bread in olive oil and then in za‘tar for a delicious taste. Although za‘tar is the word for thyme in the Arabic language, it is also a term which describes a Middle Eastern spice blend of powdered dried thyme, sumac and sesame seeds. Each region makes za‘tar a little differently.
How to use: 1) Use fresh green thyme leaves when called for in recipes; 2) Use dried thyme leaves as part of the aromatic spice blend called za‘tar; 3) Sprinkle za‘tar (fresh thyme or the spice blend) on meatballs or vegetables; 4) Use the za‘tar spice blend with olive oil as a dip for bread.
In the kitchen: Flat breads with toppings of melted cheese and za‘tar, labna and za‘tar, or za‘tar alone are unspeakably delicious. Store za‘tar in an airtight container away from direct light.
Remedies across Arabia: A general remedy for colds, flu, fevers, coughs and bronchitis is to take four to five cups of thyme tea a day. Thyme is antiseptic, antispasmodic and antifungal. It is also an expectorant and vermifuge (worm expeller).
Did you know?
- Five millennia ago, the Sumerians used thyme as an antiseptic.
- The ancient Egyptians employed thyme as an ingredient in the mummification process.
- The Arab philosopher-scientist al-Kindi (800–870) used thyme in a medicine to treat a bacterial infection or rash called St. Anthony’s Fire (erysipelas).
- The Islamic physician al-Razi (865–925) regarded thyme as an appetite enhancer, stomach purifier and treatment for flatulence.
- Thyme is widely grown commercially for its leaves and essential oils.
- Thyme is one of a small number of herbs that have more flavor dried than fresh. Others are rosemary and oregano.