Mother Earth Living

The History of Matzo: Herbs and Spices for Matzo Brei

Herbs and Spices for Matzo Brei

Except for those herbs, spices, and mixtures that are used as toppings, sprinkle the spices and herbs–minced if fresh, crumbled fine if dried–into the Matzo Brei as it cools.


Makes about 3 cups

There are many versions of this symbolic Seder food, which symbolizes the mortar the slaves used to build the pyramids in Egypt.

Note: If you use a food processor for chopping the apples, take care not to overchop; otherwise the haroset will be the consistency of paste (which some prefer). I chop apples by hand to ensure the rougher, chewier texture I prefer.

  • 6 hard, red, sweet apples, cored but not peeled, and coarsely or finely chopped or grated
  • 1/3 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Grated rind of one lemon
  • Sugar or honey to taste
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sweet red wine
  1. Combine the apples, almonds, ginger, cinnamon, and lemon rind.
  2. Add sugar or honey to taste.
  3. Slowly add just enough red wine to moisten the mixture.
  4. Use as a spread on matzo, a topping with any of the Matzo Brei versions, or as a condiment for meat dishes.
  5. Serve it in a bowl with a spoon or ladle and let people help themselves.


Parsley makes up the karpas of the Seder plate, a fresh vegetable that is dipped in salt water at the Seder. Karpas is described as a sign of spring, of fruitfulness, of hope in the future even as it is being dipped in the symbolic tears of the people.

While the use of parsley strictly for flavoring is not the same as its use as a food symbol in the Seder plate, the herb lends itself and its flavor quite nicely to Matzo Brei because of its common use for Karpas at the Seder. To add this herb to Matzo Brei, cut 2 sprigs of fresh parsley finely and sprinkle it over the cooking Matzo Brei.


(also known as zahtar or za’atar)

This is the Arabic spice blend that features the hyssop (Origanum syriacum) mentioned in the Exodus Passover story (Exodus 12:21-22). It lends an exotic flavor to the dish. The blend often includes hyssop, marjoram, or thyme, powdered sumac, sesame seeds, and salt. To flavor Matzo Brei, add 1 teaspoon of dried or 2 teaspoons of fresh herbs and spices.

Egyptian onion

(Allium ¥proliferum)

The origin of this hybrid onion (Allium cepa ¥A. fistulosum) is unknown. It is also called topset onion, tree onion, or walking onion because the cluster of bulblets that form at the top of its stems bend down to the ground by mid-summer when they plant themselves. When the children of Israel wandered in the desert after their flight from Egypt they bemoaned the good things they left behind: “We remember the fish we did eat in Egypt…the cucumbers and melons…and the onion…” (Numbers 11:5). This is our first fresh green of the season, it has bibilical associations, and its appearance in the garden coincides with the Passover season so its use in flavoring matzo brei seems natural. In early spring we eat the small scallion shoots that form at the base of the plant (very sweet), then we use the round, hollow leaves–stronger than chives in flavor–to chop into salad or to stuff with cottage cheese. When the top cluster of bulblets (strong in flavor) are formed, we separate them and use the cloves for flavoring cucumber pickles. Plant bulblets 4 inches apart in rows spaced 12 inches apart. After the initial planting there is little to do but to keep the onions thinned. Plants are available from Goodwin Creek Gardens, PO Box 83, Williams, OR 97544. To use in Matzo Brei, add 3 to 4 chopped scallions from the base of the plant.

“When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.'”
–Exodus 12:25-27
(New International Version)


After Egyptian onions, the very welcome red-tinged shoots of lovage begin to appear above ground. Both leaves and stems should be chopped into the cooking Matzo Brei. The taste is fresh and like celery, but not as strong as it becomes later, so use several young shoots.

Cut off three young lovage shoots close to the base of each emerging plant; chop them fine into the cooking matzo brei.

Sorrel and Chives

After lovage, we begin to pick tart sorrel leaves and bright-green chive spears, a nice combination. The leaves are tart, so three small ones and 2 tablespoons of minced chives will add spring flavor to Matzo Brei.

Herbes de Provence

My mixture includes rosemary, lavender, thyme, basil, marjoram, savory, and fennel seeds and is quite aromatic and delicious. Use sparingly (about 2 teaspoons of the dried mixture).

Basil and Lemon Pepper

On the final day of Passover, something special is called for in the Matzo Brei line. In the fall I propagate bush basil by putting a stem in water to develop roots. Then I pot it up and grow it on a windowsill. When I need it, there is enough foliage for a small handful, and the leaves are so tiny they hardly need chopping Sprinkle 1 to 2 teaspoons of lemon pepper over the Matzo Brei while it is cooking. Just before it is done, add about 2 teaspoons of chopped basil so it warms and releases its spicy flavor. Serve this with tomato wedges.

Click here for the main article, The History of Matzo.

 Jo Ann Gardner is an avid gardener, writer, and cook who resettled in the Adirondacks. She and her husband have written a book to be released in April called Gardens of Use & Delight (Fulcrum Publishing).

  • Published on Jun 23, 2011
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