Cortunix Japanese Quail

The Cortunix Japanese Quail is known as an Old World Quail.  It is stated that these birds have been dated back with the Egyptians during the construction of the Pyramids (raising them for eggs, pets and meat).

Japanese Quail Hens
My backyard Cortunix Japanese Quail Hens.

When I was around 14 years old, I was raising over 100 Northern Bobwhite quails.

I missed raising these hardy, beautiful birds and I didn’t want my son, Shant Varoug, to miss out.

I decided to begin starting to raise quail again, the variety I chose was the Cortunix Japanese Quail.

Cortunix Quail
Cortunix Japanese Quail.

I am only raising five (5) females, I chose only raising Quail Hens because they are MUCH quieter than male quails (close neighbors) and that I want eggs for consumption, not baby chicks.  I do not want to eat the meat either.

The reason why I wanted to return to raising quail birds again was because that I am in big disagreement with how commercial chicken egg production is conducted.  Yes, California passed a law to give more space for chickens that are laying eggs, but I’m sorry, growing the laying cage from 1 square foot to 2 square feet is not much of an improvement.

Also, eggs are increasingly becoming more and more expensive.

There are other reasons why I chose quail instead of growing another fowl:

  • Fowl are not allowed in my dwelling from the city
  • Quail eggs are much more nutritious
  • Cortunix Japanese Quail produce up to 300 eggs a year!!!
  • Quail eggs are more expensive
  • Less smelling bird
  • Everyone always wants to see quail (growers are rare)
  • Less food and water requirements
  • Less space requirements
  • Much quieter than chickens (chickens don’t shut up)
  • Not as prone to disease
  • Smarter (I might be biased)

I constructed the Quail Cage or Quail Pen out of PVC.

Son Cleaning Quail Pen 2
My son, Shant, cleaning the quail cage.

I had a lot of fun building the quail cage.  Don’t get me wrong, there were frustrations.  I was a bit worried building the quail pen out of PVC, but it was VERY EASY.  I just have to put exterior white paint on the PVC side that faces the sun so that the PVC will not degrade as quickly.

Son Cleaning Quail Pen 1
Shant ensuring he got spots that he missed.

Quail Cage Dimensions

The Quail Cage is 5.5 feet by 10.5 feet and 5.5 feet tall.


I placed an old log I had from chopping down a old tree in my backyard.  This will allow the quail birds to have fun jumping on, running around and eating bugs off of.  Quail Love Bugs!!!

Son and Grandpa Quail Pen
Grandpa and Grandson putting up the wire.

How to make Zaatar Spice

The most important use of the herb Origanum Syriacum (a type of Zaatar plant) is by making Zaatar Spice.

Step 1

First step in make Zaatar Spice is by taking the Zaatar herb leaves off of the plant.

Bundle of crushed Zaatar
Grabbing a big clump of freshly dried Zaatar.

Step 2

Place raw Sesame Seeds into a frying pan and roast on top of a stove (preferably a gas stove).

Sesame Seeds Zaatar
Another key ingredient in Zaatar mix is Sesame Seeds.
Roasted Sesame Seeds Zaatar
Sesame Seeds in a frying pan till roasted.

Step 3

Add Sumac or Sumaq to Zaatar leaves.  Sumac is a red berry that will add tartness to the Zaatar Spice.

Sumac adds tartness to the Zaatar mix.
Sumac and Zaatar
Add Sumac to the dry Zaatar herbs.

Step 4

Add the roasted Sesame Seeds to the Zaatar Spice mix.

Sesame Seed & Zaatar
Mix roasted Sesame Seeds into Zaatar mix.

Step 5

Place the Zaatar Spice into a mortar and pestle or electric blender.  Crush the mix till there is a soft and fluffy consistency.

Crush Zaatar Mix
Crush Zaatar in Mortar and Pestle
Add Zaatar mixture to Blener
Blender is just as good as using a mortar and pestle with mixing Zaatar.

Step 6

Add additional spices – Salt, crushed dried garbanzo beans, cumin, fennel, anise, etc..

** I do not add anything else but Zaatar herbs, Sumac & Sesame Seeds. **

Step 7 – Optional

I always test my mix by placing a small amount of Zaatar Spice with olive oil to see the ratio of sumac, zaatar herb and sesame seeds within the mix.  Creating a small amount of Zaatar Paste is key to testing your newly created Zaatar Spice mix.

Zaatar Olive Oil Test
Testing Zaatar Mix Consistency.

Origanum Syriacum

Origanum Syriacum

Origanum Syriacum
Origanum Syriacum, the true Zaatar Plant.

Known by many other names:

  • Wild Zaatar Oregano
  • Lebanese Oregano
  • Holy Hyssop
  • Syrian Oregano
  • Bible Hyssop


Origanum Syriacum grows wild throughout the mountain regions of Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Syria (Syria = SYRIAcum).

Out of all the different plant varieties of Zaatar that I grow, Origanum Syriacum has the greatest numbing effect on the tongue, especially when eaten fresh.  So strong that I would not be surprised if the people in Middle Eastern history, chewed on this plant before dental work, haha.

Origanum Syriacum Flowers
Flower clusters of Origanum Syriacum

I will also admit that out of all the different plant varieties of Zaatar that I grow, Origanum Syriacum is the most difficult.  Don’t get me wrong, this plant is TOUGH, its growth patterns spreads almost like mint and bugs LOVE this plant.

When you smell Origanum Syriacum, is blends the scents of Thyme, Oregano and Marjoram.  There are many people that, when creating their own Zahtar mix, use oregano, thyme and marjoram to mimic the smell and taste of this one plant.

Origanum Syriacum can grow all year round (I cover the plant if temperatures go below freezing).  Although the plant can be grown all year-round, spring and summer is the only time in which the leaves are at their highest potency and edible.

Origanum Syriacum produces an essiential oil, carvacrol.  Carcacrol possesses antiseptic properties.  Origanum Syriacum also has thymol, a terpenoid that helps inhibit harmful bacteria.  Thymol is also an active ingredient in most commercially produced cleansing mouthwashes.

I typically get about 3 cuttings from this plant throughout the year.  This plant is a heavy producer of leaves.

This plant grows straight upwards to about 2.5 feet.

It can take really hot weather, also with minimal water intake, in fact the less water it receives the stronger the smell and flavor become.

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Drying Zaatar Herbs

About three (3) times a year you can cut your Zaatar plants to use.

Bundle of Zaatar
Freshly cut bundle of Zaatar.

Growing not just Zaatar plants but any herb plant is extremely easy.

Freshly Cut Zaatar
Cutting fresh Zaatar from my garden.

After you cut your Zaatar herbs you must wash them in cold water, let them sit for awhile so you can ensure that all, if any, bugs are flushed out.

Cleaning Zaatar
Cleaning the Zaatar before drying.

Ensure that after washing off your Zaatar that the leaves are as dry as they can be.

DO NOT leave too much water on the leaves of the Zaatar or the color will darken/blacken and the taste will diminish.

The best way, in my opinion to ensure that as much water gets removed from the leaves is by utilizing a salad spinner.

Salad Spinner Zaatar
A salad spinner is the best way to dry wet Zaatar leaves.

Set your Zaatar in a dark room, spread out evenly and temperature ranging from 70-75 degrees F.  Ensure that, at least, for the first day that there is air movement in the drying room (a small fan would do).

Collection of Zaatar
Zaatar before drying

Then after three (3) days your Zaatar herbs are completely dry.

Dried Zaatar
Zaatar fully dried.

Labneh with Zaatar Mix

One of my favorite ways to make Labneh for breakfast.

Son adding mint to Labneh
My son, Shant, helping top labneh with crushed mint

Step 1

Start by spreading labneh onto a plate and then adding a spoonful of pepper paste.

Pepper Paste and Labneh
Add a spoonful of Pepper Paste into labneh

Step 2

Mix the pepper paste with the labneh.

Mixed Pepper Paste and Labne
Mix the pepper paste into the labne

Step 3

Chop olives (preferably salty, pickled olives) and mix with labneh.

Olives and Labneh
Cut olives into the labneh and mix

Step 4


Labneh Seasonings
Add Sumac, Mint & Zaatar Mix

Step 5

Add spices/seasonings (Wild Zaatar, Mint & Sumac).

Add Olive Oil.

Labneh Seasonings
Add Sumac, Mint & Zaatar Mix

Step 6

Add fresh cut tomatoes.

Labne and Tomatoes
Add Tomatoes to your Labne



Lebanese Breakfast Labneh Zaatar
Ready to dig into our Labneh breakfast

Lebanese Zaatar Ham Pizza

My Grandmother and I use to make our own version of Lebanese Zaatar Pizza.  It is a healthy and quick meal to make for the whole family.

That is why Lebanese Zaatar Pizza with Ham is one of my favorites.

Using fresh Zaatar, Wild Thyme, herbs is ideal, but if you do not have Wild Thyme, using Oregano is fine.

Step 1

Start off by spreading pizza sauce on flat pizza dough.  Much like my son, don’t be afraid to spread the pizza sauce to the edge of the pizza dough.

Son Spreading Sauce Zaatar Pizza
My son, Shant, helping me spread pizza sauce on our Zaatar Pizza.

Step 2

Add a spoonful of Mild Pepper Paste to your pizza sauce.  Ensure that it is spread evenly.

Pepper Paste Zaatar Pizza
Add a bit of Mild Pepper Paste to give an extra zing to the Zaatar Pizza.

Step 3

Add a spoonful of freshly prepared Zaatar Mix.

Add Zaatar to Zaatar Pizza
Adding Zaatar Mix to Zaatar Pizza.

Step 4

Retrieve fresh picked Zaatar (Wild Thyme) or Oregano from your garden.

Fresh Zaatar Plant to Zaatar Pizza
Using Fresh Cut Zaatar from the Garden.

Step 5

Chop or Crush the fresh Zaatar to your pizza sauce.

Zaatar Herb to Zaatar Pizza
Fresh Crushed Zaatar herb to pizza.

Step 6

Add thin sliced smoked ham, layer the slices multiple times.

Thin Sliced Ham to Zaatar Pizza
Very Thin Sliced Smoked Ham to Zaatar Pizza

Step 7

Add thin cut mushrooms and a layer of shredded cheese.

Thin Mushroom & Cheese to Zaatar Pizza
Add Thin Cut Mushrooms and Cheese to Zaatar Pizza.

Step 8

Add chopped black olives and red and green bell peppers.  Once again, add a thin layer of shredded cheese to top off pizza.

Olives and Peppers to Zaatar Pizza
Top off the Zaatar Pizza with Olives and Bell Peppers.

Step 9

Pre-heat oven for 450 degrees F and then cook pizza for about 10 to 15 minutes depending on the thickness of the pizza dough.

Cooked Lebanese Zaatar Ham Pizza
Delicious Lebanese Zaatar Ham Pizza.

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Caraway Thyme

Thymus Herba Barona

Caraway Thyme
Caraway Thyme is a great substitute for caraway.

One of the fastest growing thyme plants in the world.

This is my favorite thyme to grow, the reason, it is the fastest growing thyme.  There is joke, when growing Thyme, it takes THYME to grow.  Ha ha.  Well that joke doesn’t apply to this frisky plant.

Produces a very pungent, sweet smell reminiscent of Caraway.  Caraway is a spice that is often used to enhance the flavor of some Zaatar mixes.

Not only does Caraway Thyme grow the fastest, but it also is, in my opinion, the most attractive thyme.

Herba Barona, translates to Herb of Beef.  In medieval times, this plant was used to spice meat that has gone past its expiration date.

Caraway Thyme only grows about 4 inches tall (very short plant), but can spread out far and fast.

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Bee on Pink Savory

Pink Savory and Bees go hand and hand.

Bee on Pink Savory
Bees Love Pink Savory Flowers.

Out of all the different variety of Zaatar plants that I grow, Pink Savory is the one that bees love the most.

Here are some ideas/observations that I have on the reason(s) why:

  • Flowers smell sweet
  • Leaves smell sweet
  • Spiciest leaves of all the Zaatar plants
  • Most Productive Flowers of any Zaatar Variety

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