Article By Maria Benardis
Food – The Epoch Times
The Magic of Masticha
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2019
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Mastiha, the fragrant, creamy white resin of the mastic tree, grows in only one place in the world: the island of Chios, Greece. I had my ﬁrst encounter with the mastic tree was when I was 5 years old. I was living on the island of Psara, Greece, about 14 miles northwest of Chios. My cousin Theodora wanted to play “doctors,” and I was so excited that while running up the steps made of uneven rocks, I fell and broke my arm. I had to go to Chios with my grandmother to have my arm set in plaster, because this could not be done on Psara. It was in Chios that I saw for the ﬁrst time the mastic tree. I had never smelled anything as sweet and beautiful as mastiha. I recall asking my grandmother why the trees were crying. The resin on the trees looked like tear drops. My grandmother and I brought back home mastiha and other herbs from Chios, which we used to make many delicious dishes. I still enjoy using mastiha in my cooking, and when doing so I remember the day in Chios when I discovered them.
Harvesting Mastiha Mastiha, also known as mastic, has been harvested for at least 2,500 years. The mastic tree grows in other parts of Greece and the Mediterranean, but it only produces the resin spice in southern Chios. The hot, arid summers in the island’s mastihohória, or “mastic villages,” permit the mastiha to dry—a crucial process, because the resin spoils if it gets wet before it matures. Crushed marble is laid around the base of the trees so that when the resin falls, it does not get dirty with soil or leaves, or absorb any moisture and spoil.
The harvesting procedure, “kentima,” is performed during the summer from July to the beginning of October. The resin is collected by bleeding the trees: making small incisions, twice a week, to their trunks. This allows the crystal clear, liquid sap to drip onto the crushed marble below.