Mastiha - Mastic
Mastiha - Mastic
Mastiha is a natural resin from the Southern part of the island of Chios in Greece. It has been harvested for centuries using the same technique: the Pistacia Lentiscus (schinos) trees are incised, the sap is "wept" out, and then the resin solidifies into "tear" shaped pieces after 15-20 days. It is then harvested and cleaned by the women of the 21 Mastiha villages (Mastihohoria). The cultivation of the resin is exclusive to the sourthern area of Chios due to its unique microclimate and the fact that the trees there have had centuries of cultivation and controlled propagation, making them highly productive in the best quality resin.
Mastiha has been used since ancient times for both its flavor as a spice, as well as for its therapeutic properties. It is an antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory, and has long been lauded for its beneficial use in skin care, oral hygiene, and for curing digestive disorders. To use as a spice, all you have to do is crush the tears using a mortar and pestle with a pinch of salt (for savory) or sugar (for sweet). The tears will turn into a fine powder with a refreshingly alpine, and slightly camphoric aroma. Mastiha is often associated with ice creams and other sweetened milk preparations in the Middle East, but it can also flavor savory dishes with anything from cheese to meat to vegetables.
Ever since 1997, the European Union has protected the product under the Protected Designation of Origin. The Mastiha growers are also protected by the Greek government, and the resin and its products are all sold at a fair trade price in order to preserve this ancient tradition.
Mastiha was the first chewing gum. The raw resin is hard to the bite, but once you start chewing it softens into a long lasting gum that freshens the breath and aids digestion.