What is Za’atar?
Also known as zahtar or zatar this spice blend is predominately ground sumac, roasted sesame seeds, and green herbs. Za’atar is used to flavour meats and vegetables, or mixed with olive oil and used as a marinade for olives or as a spread for pita or flatbread. The taste of a za’atar mixture can be tangy, herbal, nutty, or toasty.
Za’atar is both a family of herbs and an herb, Thymbra spicata, with a slight minty tendency, in the marjoram/oregano family. Some are salty flavoured and quite rare, some are lemony. Za’atar is not sumac; what is sold commercially is often blended with sumac and lightly toasted sesame seeds, but the base of the za’atar blend is za’atar herbs.
Marjoram is much milder than the oregano we usually find, Western blends usually use it along with oregano and thyme. In the East, thyme is “zaatar romi”(roman zaatar), and oregano is “zaatar ach’dar”(green zaatar) and so forth. Zaatar can also be the name of hyssop or a varied mixture of herbs. Commercial blends will often contain three kinds of zaatar and sumac.