Foraging wild zaatar

May 2, 2013  • 

 

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.


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

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

IMG_2316There it is! 

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

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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. 

Comments

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  1. Rosa says:

    Wonderful! I love foraging for food.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. Lebanese Kitchen says:

    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.

    • Joumana says:

      @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.

  3. deana@lostpast says:

    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. Belinda @zomppa says:

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

  5. Lisa the Gourmet Wog says:

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

    • Joumana says:

      @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.

  6. Leigh says:

    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.

    • Joumana says:

      @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.

  7. Susan says:

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

  8. twbarritt says:

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

    • Joumana says:

      @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.

  9. Noreen says:

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

  10. Moses Boyajian says:

    @Lebanese kitchen Judging by the photos the herb could either be Winter Savory (Satureja Montana) or Conehead Thyme (Coridothymus Capitatus). I grow both of them and many other different varieties of herbs that are given the name of Zaatar. The herb that is primarily used for the dipping Zaatar mix is Origanum Syriacum. The main reason why Winter Savory and Conehead Thyme are not used primarily for the dry mixed blend are due to it being difficult to collet the leaves and how spicy and peppery they can be. The pink flowers that bloom from the Conehead Thyme are EXTREMELY spicy!

    • Joumana says:

      @Moses Boyajian: Thank you so much for your enlightened comment! I am sure a lot of people would be interested to know about all of this, and I had been asked over the years time and again if it was possible to grown zaatar in the US.. Thanks so much for your input.

      • Moses Boyajian says:

        Looking at the photos again, the herb could be Thymbra Spicata. Typically that is the Zaatar that is pickled with brine and lemon. I also grow that herb as well.
        Yes, I grow all types of herbs named Zaatar in California.
        Right now my Zaatar seedlings have heavy frost on them and they are still growing!!!
        Amazing Survivors!

  11. Moses Boyajian says:

    Looking at the photos again, the herb could be Thymbra Spicata. Typically that is the Zaatar that is pickled with brine and lemon. I also grow that herb as well.

    Yes, I grow all types of herbs named Zaatar in California.

    Right now my Zaatar seedlings have heavy frost on them and they are still growing!!!

    Amazing Survivors!

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