Do you have an addiction to buying spices and spice mixes? I absolutely do and I’m not embarrassed to admit it.
When I head to Israel or other countries where buying spices and mixes at a market is part of the landscape, my addiction only gets worse. They are so beautiful and it’s exciting to think about all the potential dishes and baked goods I might make, even if most never actually happen.
But the truth is that spices lose their potency, and can even go bad, when not stored properly or if they are kept hiding in the back of that spice shelf for too long, a fact one should consider before buying COSTCO-sized packages of any spice.
I’ve also recently learned (thanks to some responses I received to an Instagram story about reorganizing my spice cabinet) that za’atar, in particular, can lose potency and spoil more quickly than other spices, and that it should actually be kept in the fridge.
Let me back up for one minute. Za’atar is a spice — more specifically, a spice blend. Most internet searches will tell you that za’atar is made from thyme, marjoram, sesame seeds, and sometimes sumac, another popular flavor of Middle Eastern cuisine that’s made from dried berries, has a lemony flavor, and a deep reddish hue. More accurately, za’atar is made from a kind of oregano called hyssop, which is native to the Middle East and Southern Europe.
This is relevant because Israeli za’atar typically includes sesame seeds, which can spoil if it’s too hot, humid, or if they are sitting out too long. So it’s recommended to buy small quantities of za’atar, or store it in the fridge. And it’s not just the za’atar — you should also be storing your sesame seeds in the fridge, or even the freezer, to preserve their freshness.
So there you have it — stick your za’atar and sesame seeds in the fridge in an airtight container, and make sure to periodically clean out your spice cabinet.
Hankering for some za’atar? Here are a few of my favorite ways to use it: