Foraging wild zaatar


I followed this man, Salah.

Zaatar is having a growth spurt this time of year and I happily accepted an offer from Salah, gentleman-farmer (originally from Egypt), to show me where and how to forage wild zaatar; there are several varieties of zaatar and this one is elongated and  called dukka; folks like to eat it in a salad or pickle it or mix it with cheese. This type of zaatar is not the one made into a mix with sumac and sesame seeds.


Can you see zaatar in there? I could’n’t!


getting closer; now zaatar loves limestone, rocky soils, and lots of thorns

IMG_2316There it is! 


Salah was showing me how to snip it with both hands, without touching the root. 


Oh, saw some wild sage too! (called as3een in the Chouf and meeramieh in other regions).

Had fun, it was a short 2 minutes away; that’s the beauty of the Lebanese mountains. 

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  1. Posted May 2, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful! I love foraging for food.



  2. Posted May 2, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Hi Joumana – this is lovely thank you for sharing. As a kid growing up in the Koura region in North Lebanon, I used to go with siblings and cousins every spring to get Zaatar for our moms.. such a fun experience. Do you happen to know what the English word for that wild zaatar we use in lebanon to make the actual zaatar mix? Just wondering if we can ever find it in the US.

  3. Posted May 2, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    That doesn’t look anything like the zatar I got at the green market. I just love the way it tastes. It would be wonderful to see the difference between that and the wild stuff…

  4. Joumana
    Posted May 2, 2013 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    @Lebanese kitchen: precious memories! I just know that it is called origanum syriacum but this one is the long variety so it may have another name; I will check in a book I have in the mountain written by a couple who teach at LAU natural science and published a book on wildflowers in Lebanon.

  5. Posted May 2, 2013 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    He knows what he’s looking for! I would have ZERO idea!!

  6. Posted May 3, 2013 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    Is the flavour milder than the dried version? How wonderful to be able to forage for wild zaatar, only in Lebanon!

  7. Joumana
    Posted May 3, 2013 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    @Lisa the Gourmet Wog: the flavor of these wild herbs is stronger than the dried variety in my limited experience; that stands for zaatar, sage and dill.

  8. Leigh
    Posted May 3, 2013 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Hi, Hope you are doing well! This is off topic, but every time I use your search bar to search your page it doesn’t work. It always says that the search yielded no results. Is it possible to fix it or tell me what I am doing wrong. I would think using a search bar would be easy, but maybe I am missing something haha.

  9. Joumana
    Posted May 3, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    @Leigh: I know there is a problem and I will have it fixed as soon as possible; in the meantime, the best way to search is with google; go to google and type the recipe + taste of beirut and you will get it instantly. Thanks for your patience.

  10. Posted May 3, 2013 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    How lucky to have a zaatar quide and how wonderful to have the mountains so nearby to enjoy on the weekends.

  11. Posted May 4, 2013 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    What fun! What is the “flavor” of zaatar? I’ve never sampled it.

  12. Joumana
    Posted May 4, 2013 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    @TWBarritt: zaatar is an intense combo of thyme, marjoram, oregano, you name it! according to a seasoned farmer I just spoke to this morning, the best zaatar comes from the South of Lebanon. Its flavor depends on soil and climate conditions.

  13. Posted May 16, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    beautiful! i love zaatar. how lucky you are to be getting it straight from the source

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