Widely used in the Middle East (especially Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel, where it is native) to flavor meats and breads, it is a wonderfully heady, richly scented and 'spicy' seasoning that combines the flavors of Marjoram, Oregano, and Thyme. Easy to grow on deer-resistant plants in poor to average soil, it makes a nice perimeter planting for the herb garden.
A member of the Origanum family, Zaatar Marjoram is actually closer in flavor to a mild Thyme than to the Sweet Marjoram with which we are familiar in this country. It is commonly used to season grilled mutton, and is also added to breads.
Zaatar is easy to grow and reaches about 3 feet high and wide, topped with flowerspikes that are also used (along with the leaves) in seasoning. It blooms in late spring to early summer, and actually prefers poor to only moderately fertile soil, preferably alkaline (lime-based). It also does well in containers -- just give it plenty of sunshine, very little if any fertilizer, and it's on its way in no time!
Hardy in zones 8-10, but grown as an annual everywhere else..
In Israel, the za'atar plant is a protected species, and at certain times of year Israel does not allow people to harvest it, for fear it will become extinct.
This plant that Israel seeks to preserve can be traced all the way back to the Bible, where it is call eizov (often translated as hyssop, though biblical hyssop was something different from the plant that today we call hyssop). In the Bible, eizov has many uses, probably due to its antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties,