oregano 50g


add a little Lebanese sunshine

Bassatin Baanoub have picked the dried leaves from the oregano plant (Oreganum syriacum) grown on their farm in the south of Lebanon. The leaves are kept coarsely ground, to maintain their powerful aroma. Crush the leaves with your fingers to release their wonderful scent in your cooking.

to serve

Scatter the oregano over fish, add to tomatoes for a sauce, put some in the cavity of a chicken before roasting to fill your kitchen and your dishes with a little bit of Lebanese sunshine. Infuse a teaspoon in 150ml of boiling water to make a “tisane” to soothe a cough. How will you use this oregano from Lebanon?

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Origanum syriacum

Origanum syriacum in flower
photo of the flowering tips of Origanum syriacum by Yasmina Zahar

Bassatin Baanoub grow their oregano on land rented from a monastery, tucked away at the end of a dirt track, in the south of Lebanon. Mentioned in writing for the first time on stone tablets from the Hittite dynasty (1600-1200BC), its use hasn’t changed a great deal over time. Its importance is reflected in the fact that farmers have to acquire an export licence to be able to sell their crop. 

how is it used in Lebanon?

It’s hard to overstate the importance of Origanum syriacum to Lebanon. Not only is it a key ingredient in the za’atar mix, but it’s been used for many centuries for its health benefits. Picked in August, it is laid on sheets during the heat of the summer. Once the leaves have been picked off, the remaining stems are used as compost under plants. 

oregano dyring at Bassatin Baanoub's farm
photo of oregano drying on sheets in the sun by Yasmina Zahar

health benefits

As a dried herb, the oregano can be used to make a distillation. Some mountain farmers still use a traditional alembic to draw out the essential oils into the distillate. The resulting liquid is taken to soothe gastrointestinal problems as well as coughs and colds. People buy this, as well as other distillates, from small producers at places like the souk el tayeb in Beirut.

preserves on display in Beirut's farmer's market souk el tayeb
jars and bottles of “mouneh” – preserved foods found in the souk el tayeb in Beirut

add the aroma of Lebanon to you kitchen!

The aroma released from oregano as it cooks will summon hungry souls to the kitchen. Butter beans will absorb the fragrance as they’re gently fried in extra virgin olive oil and oregano. As an addition to a tomato sauce, you won’t need much. Rachel Roddy, in Five Quarters, suggests roasting tomatoes in extra virgin olive oil with some garlic. Adding a tablespoon of oregano half way through the cooking fills the kitchen with the heavy scent of the Lebanese mountains. 

bowl of tomatoes, with some garlic and oregano and EVOO to make a tomato sauce


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