Thyme (Zaatar) the wonder herb

Published, 11th May, 2016


Thyme fresh (2)

Fresh Thyme

Thyme dried

Dried Thyme







Thyme fresh (1)


Thyme is a wonderful ingredient that’s used in cuisines around the world, particularly in France, Italy, across the Mediterranean and in the Middle East.

Za’atar is the Arabic word for Thyme  but Zaatar is also a prepared condiment generally made with ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, or some combination thereof, mixed with toasted sesame seeds, and salt, though other spices such as sumac might also be added.

Thyme is a delicate looking herb with a strong penetrating fragrance and is a wonderful addition to bean, egg and vegetable dishes. Both fresh and dried thyme is available throughout the year.

Thyme has a long history of use in natural medicine in connection with chest and respiratory problems including coughs, bronchitis, and chest congestion and the health benefits of thyme are proven and  very real.

The volatile oil components of thyme have also been shown to have antimicrobial activity against a host of different bacteria and fungi and are packed with anti-septic, anti-viral, anti-rheumatic, anti-parasitic and anti-fungal properties, which explains why thyme-based formulas are used as an expectorant, diuretic, fungicide and antibiotic.

Thyme is also a powerful detoxifying agent, making it one of many liver detox foods. What’s more, the herb is a great immune system booster that encourages white blood cell formation while increasing resistance to foreign organisms.

Thyme as medicine

At the onset of a flu it is greatly advised to have Zaatar tea and I can swear by this decoction which not only helps flu and cold symptoms but also stomach and digestive tract ailments. Thyme herb tea is a popular health drink.

To Prepare the tea take 2 cups water and bring it to a boil then add 1 tsp. of dried sage, 3/4 tsp. dried thyme, 1/2 tsp marjoram and a 1/4 tsp. of rosemary.  Stir and switch off flame and keep covered to infuse for 10 minutes.  Strain and sip hot.

These four herbs are a must in my pantry and serve as a natural home remedy for a variety of ailments from stomach upsets to the common cold and influenza.

Thyme is effective against infections, most specifically respiratory and digestive. It can be taken for diarrhea, infections of the vagina including thrush and infections in the fallopian tubes. It has a relaxing effect on muscles in the bronchi and helps to relieve asthma, whooping cough, laryngitis, bronchitis and dry coughs. Mouth and gum infections can be treated with a solution made from as little as .1 percent thyme oil. Inhalation therapy is useful for those who suffer from chronic sinus infections. As an antioxidant, thyme protects the body from the effects of aging. As a stellar digestive herb, thyme can enhance appetite and digestion while stimulating the liver.

Thyme as food

For thousands of years, herbs and spices have been used to help preserve foods and protect them from microbial contamination, now research shows that both thyme and basil contain constituents that can both prevent contamination and decontaminate previously contaminated foods. Prior to the invention of the refrigerator, thyme was even used to help keep meats from spoiling.

It makes good sense to include thyme and basil in more of your recipes, particularly for foods that are not cooked such as salads. Adding fresh thyme and/or basil to your next vinaigrette will not only enhance the flavor of your fresh greens, but will help ensure that the fresh produce you consume is safe to eat.

The ideal way to introduce Zaatar in our regular diet is to have it on bread. Having spent the last more than 30 years in the Middle East, we have grown up eating Fatayers (arabic pies with various fillings) and man’eesh bi zaatar (zaatar pastries). But an instant zaatar pastry can be made at home.  All you need is readymade zaatar, olive oil and arabic/pita bread. Zaatar goes well with white cheese or Labneh for breakfast and can be prepared as follows for a nutritious & healthy breakfast, meal, appetizer or starter.

Ingredients: 1 cup zaatar, Olive oil as required, various types of bread, Labneh if required.

Take the zaatar in a bowl and gradually add the olive oil and mix to a paste like consistency.  Apply on arabic/pita bread or any bread of your choice and toast in a preheated oven, pan or electric sandwich toaster till it heats through and the underside of the bread is slightly crisp.  If using labneh, apply to bread, sprinkle over with dry zaatar or apply the zaatar paste, cover with another slice of bread and toast in a sandwich toaster.

Serve with Tabbouleh for breakfast or as a starter or appetiser.

Zaatar (1)

Fresh Thyme Salad  (Salatat Zaatar) Fresh Thyme Salad


Fresh Thyme Salad


  • 1 bunch fresh wild thyme
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • ½ bunch green onions (optional)
  • 1 lemon, juice
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ tsp. salt or to taste
  1. Clean the thyme and pick the leaves and tender stalks and discard the stems.
  2. Wash and drain well.
  3. Mix with the finely chopped onion, lemon juice, olive oil a d salt.
  4. Serve with a main course or with just some warm pita bread.
  5. Rocket leaves, mint and parsley may be added if desired.


Thyme is a nutrient-dense spice and is an excellent source of vitamin C, a very good source of vitamin A, iron, manganese, copper and dietary fibre. Whenever possible, choose fresh thyme over dried as it is superior in flavor.  The leaves must look fresh and be a vibrant green-grey in colour and free of dark spots and yellowing.

Fresh thyme should be stored in the refrigerator wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel. Dried thyme should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place where it will keep fresh for about six months.

Thyme, either in its fresh or dried form, should be added toward the end of the cooking process since heat can easily cause a loss of its delicate flavor.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas

  • Add thyme to your favorite pasta sauce recipe.
  • Fresh thyme adds a wonderful fragrance to omelets and scrambled eggs.
  • Hearty beans such as kidney beans, pinto beans and black beans taste exceptionally good when seasoned with thyme.
  • When poaching fish, place some sprigs of thyme on top of the fish and in the poaching liquid.
  • Season soups and stocks by adding fresh thyme.


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1 Comment

  1. Pingback: MENU PLAN FOR LACTATING MOTHERS | My Cooking Diaries ""

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