Comparison between Quality Traits of Solar-Dried and Freeze-Dried Origanum syriacum L. (Za’atar)
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There is growing interest in Origanum syriacum due to attractive culinary applications and functional properties. Solar drying is the most common conventional method for drying Origanum syriacum L. (Za’atar) in Mediterranean region. This study aimed to evaluate the quality traits of solar dried za’atar in comparison to freeze dried za’atar. Proximate composition (moisture, protein, fat, fiber, carbohydrates, and ash), color index (L*a*b*), macro and microstructure, sensory, and microbiological characteristics were evaluated. Solar dried za’atar exhibited significantly lower fat content (1.10 vs. 1.64%, p < 0.05) than freeze dried za’atar. Solar drying led to severe changes in color values compared to freeze drying. Solar drying exhibited loss in the structural integrity and leave hairs more than freeze drying. Moreover, freeze-dried za’atar exhibited significantly lower total aerobic count (4.92 vs. 5.23, p < 0.05) and yeasts and mold count (4.59 vs. 5.36, p < 0.05) than solar-dried za’atar. Panelists were able significantly to differentiate between solar- and freeze dried za’atar. Freeze-dried za’atar had significantly lower hedonic score of color, odor, taste, and overall acceptance than solar dried za’atar. In conclusion, using freeze drying achieved good improvements in some quality traits for za’atar while solar dried za’atar showed better sensory perception

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