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Origanum syriacum

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Origanum syriacum; syn. Majorana syriaca (also Origanum maru, although this primarily refers to a hybrid of O. syriacum),<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> bible hyssop,<ref name=pfaf/> Biblical-hyssop,<ref name=arsgrin/> Lebanese oregano<ref name=arsgrin/> or Syrian oregano,<ref name=arsgrin/> is an aromatic perennial herb in the mint family, Lamiaceae.

Etymology

The plant may be called za'atar by association with its use in a spice mixture. In Modern Hebrew, it is called ezob, and it may have been the ezob of Classical Hebrew.<ref>Based on the Judeo-Arabic translation of the word in the works of Rabbi Saadia Gaon (in his Tafsir, a translation of the Pentateuch, Exo. 12:22), Nathan ben Abraham I in Mishnah Uktzin 2:2, Rabbi Jonah ibn Janah (Sefer HaShorashim - Book of the Roots, s.v. אזב - aleph, zayn, bet), and Maimonides (in his Mishnah Commentary, Nega'im 14:6).</ref> In many English translations of the Bible, ezov is rendered as hyssop, hence the common name for bible hyssop, believed to be a different plant generally identified with Hyssopus officinalis. The problems with identification arise from Jewish oral tradition where it expressly prohibits Greek hyssop, and where the biblical plant is said to have been identical to the Arabic word, zaatar (Origanum syriacum), and which word is not to be associated with other ezobs that often bear an additional epithet, such as zaatar farsi = Persian-hyssop (Thymbra capitata) and zaatar rumi = Roman-hyssop (Satureja thymbra) and zaatar mani = Calamint (Calamintha incana).<ref>The Mishnah (ed. Herbert Danby), Oxford University Press: Oxford 1977, s.v. Negai'im 14:6 (p. 696); Parah 11:7 (p. 711).</ref>

Description

Origanum syriacum in early Spring

Origanum syriacum grows to a height of 1 meter. The plant is pollinated by bees.<ref name=pfaf>Template:Cite web</ref> Flowers are small and white or pale pink.<ref name=mbgplantfinder>Template:Cite web</ref>

Distribution

Origanum syriacum is native to the Middle East.<ref name=arsgrin/> In Egypt, Origanum syriacum subsp. sinaicum is a very rare plant that grows on stony ground in Sinai Peninsula including the coastal Mediterranean strip.<ref>Template:Cite book</ref> From the conservation point of view it is an endangered plant.

Use

It is a preferred primary ingredient in the spice mixture za'atar. So precious is this herb that in the Levant, Arabs will send out foraging parties to gather it. Origanum syriacum is harvested in the wild for use in preparing za'atar, a mixture of dried herbs, sesame and sumac for flavoring and garnish. However, it has recently entered cultivation due to high levels of demand.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> A study of the agronomic and chemical potential of O. syriacum subsp. sinaicum showed it to be superior to O. vulgare subsp. hirtum in herb and oil yields per acre. It also identified the major constituents of the essential oil of O. syriacum subsp. sinaicum as thymol, gamma-terpinene and p-cymene, in descending order.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>

References

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External links

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