By: Ibrahim Al Alou
What is Syrian thyme?
It is a mix of thyme (Thymus vulgaris or Thymus syriacus) in Arabic (alzaater) with other ingredients that are made in semi-powdered form and consumed with pita bread and olive oil at breakfast or it can be made into pizza like patties thrown into the oven with, what else: olive oil.
A pizza dough with olive oil and thyme mix on top.
Thyme is an aromatic herb used extensively in the Mediterranean. It is said that the Greeks used it in baths and burned it in their sanctuaries as incense and added it to their cheeses and spirits to make them more aromatic. The old Egyptians used it in preserving their mummies. Levantine peoples used it as a part of their cuisine. They add it to their food and teas dry or fresh. Also they use it to season their breads.
I dried these thyme to make my own recipe.
It is a perennial plant that loves sunny locations and tolerates drought and cold well. It is propagated by seeds or cuttings and by dividing the whole plants. Its flowers are so fragrant and draw honeybees from a distance. The nectar is pungent and makes excellent honey. Teas made of wild thyme (Thymus serpyllum) are used locally for cough and bronchitis in folk medicine.
Back to our story: what is Syrian thyme mix is made of?
It is a versatile mix that has different component depending on the region but the main ones are as follows:
1- Thyme (any of the above mentioned species or Origanum syriacus).
2- Sumac (Rhus).
3- Roasted chickpeas.
5- Roasted watermelon seeds.
6- Roasted sesame seeds.
7- Spices (cumin, coriander ,anise and fennel.
8- Salt to taste.
So I made the mix and this is the final result.
A very fragrant thyme mix at my kitchen.
A daily dip of thyme blend with extra virgin olive oil and pita bread is a regular ritual at breakfast across the country. Kids take sandwiches of it with them to school to munch on during breaks with some undocumented claims that eating thyme makes you smarter. But anyway it is good enough without any claims.