Za’atar – A Biblical Plant

Za'atar mixture of sesame seeds, sumac and salt

Za’atar which is called hyssop in English is used to make tea, mixed with sesame seeds, sumac and salt and slathered with olive oil on bread, put on top of labane and in my case it is mixed with matzah meal as a coating for red mullet.

Moses Maimonides, a philosopher, rabbi and physician who lived in North Africa and Egypt, prescribed za’atar as an antiseptic, a cure for intestinal parasites, a cold remedy, loss of appetite and flatulence. Rubbing the sides of the head with za’atar oil was believed to reduce headaches. There is also a belief that this particular spice mixture makes the mind alert and the body strong.

I like za’atar so much, I am growing it in my new garden. It is also great chopped up and mixed into an omelet or a salad.

Red Mullet with Za'atar Crust
  • 350 g 3/4lb small or 4 medium red mullet filets
  • 2 cups matza meal
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons za'atar mix
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  1. In a plate, mix the matza meal, za'atar mix, salt and peper. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and water.
  2. Place the fish in the egg mixture and mix until the fish is thoroughly coated and then dip in the matza meal mixture until well coated. Cook the fish in about 25mm (1 inch) of hot oil for approximately two to three minutes on each side or until flaky. Drain on a paper towel and serve immediately.

Here are some beautiful flowers on the way to our village:

These are called bottle brushes because they look like a bottle brush.

These flowers are Anemones in English and Kalanit in Hebrew, which is related to Kala, the Hebrew word for a bride, referring to the flower’s beauty. It is mentioned in the Talmudic scriptures and is referred to as Klonita.

The scientific and English name was derived from the Greek mythological word Anemoi, the wind gods. One of whom, the legendary Zephyrus was the west wind and bringer of light spring and early summer breezes. In ancient Greece, wreaths of anemones were used to decorate the altar of the Goddess Venus. Hence, the species name Coronaria.

In Arabic it is called Skaik-a-Na’amann, probably referring to a Canaanite god by that name, and mentioned also as a flower name by the Prophet Isaiah (17:10) “Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants” (In Hebrew “pleasant plants” is Nitei Naamanim).

During the Middle Ages, a wreath of anemone flowers was put on a sick person’s neck because it was believed to help cure him.

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