Mastic (mastiha) is a resin obtained from the mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus).
Since ancient times mastic was well known for its therapeutic effects; it has been used for treating gastrointestinal ailments. Furthermore, as a natural chewing gum is very beneficial for dental health.
Since time immemorial in the Eastern Mediterranean mastic was used as a seasoning in pastries (sweet and savory) in ice cream (the mastic helps to develop the thick structure), in milk based desserts and in other confectionary products. Mastic is traditionally added to Christmas and Easter pies. For example, in some regions of Greece it is used to flavour the sweet cheesy filling of Easter pies dough. Furthermore, mastic can flavour olive oil and alcoholic beverages. Nowadays, chefs have proved that this spice with its unique aromatic can go along with a lot of foods like meat, fish and sauces.
Mastic is also widely used in perfumes, cosmetics and medicine.
Mastic of Chios
Mastic is an exclusively Greek product, produced on the island of Chios. What is interesting to know is that the mastic tree does not grow anywhere else in the world except for this little island in the Aegean Sea! Moreover, the most famous mastic of Greece is produced in 24 villages and communities in the southern part of Chios, which are known as “Mastihohoria” (means mastic villages).
The best period for harvesting is July and August.
For the collection of the raw mastic, small incisions are made on the trunk of the trees and the mastic gum flows in the form of liquid drops which become solid as soon as they come into contact with the air, they are washed by hand and dried. Then it takes its final commercial form and is available for sale with the brand name “Chios mastiha”.
Mastic is of great interest because of its use as a seasoning, an ointment and a remedy, which helps ulcer and other stomach diseases and is valuable for oral hygiene. The uniqueness and versatility of mastic as a spice is that it can be used equivalently in sweet and savory recipes, perfectly blending with any ingredients such as citrus and tomatoes to chocolate, cream and yoghurt. 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).
It is not recommended to use an electric spice mill.
Mastic of Chios is known and used for many centuries and little has changed in the mastic production process.
Chios Mastiha Growers Association was founded in 1938 to help commercialize the product and ensure the income of the growers. The Association ensures the quality of the product by utilizing modern technology in process and packing, and by constantly increasing the production volumes encouraging new cultivations and creating new work places. Mastic trees grow only on Chios; in fact they require such a specific habitat that they grow just in the southern part of the island and attempts to plant them elsewhere, have been met with little success.
What makes Chios mastic so unique?
Only the local mastic has a distinctive flavor, aroma and contains many purported health benefits. Nowadays mastic is protected by the EEC and guaranteed by the program for the protection of trade names (POP).
What are the benefits of mastic?
Since ancient times, mastic has been found to inhibit the growth of Helicobacter pylori, bacteria which is considered to be the main cause of peptic ulcers.
Mastic is a natural antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory activity and is used in treatments of serious diseases.
Mastic has therapeutic uses to lower cholesterol and ease blood pressure.
Mastic prevents gum inflammation, dental caries and freshens the breath.
What is the use of mastic?
Since ancient times mastic is used to prevent souring of wine; it was just added to the wine and maintained its freshness. Furthermore, mastic improves the aroma of wine.
Mastic “tears” are a particularly good choice for improving your breath. Unlike the common chewing gums, mastic does not show any signs of falovor and aroma loss after 10 minutes and maintains it for several hours.
Mastic is used in baking bread, biscuits, jams, preserves, pies, burgers, and other meat dishes and sauces. It is crushed using a mortar and pestle with a pinch of salt (for savory) or sugar (for sweet).
Mastic is added to ouzo.
Mastic is soluble in alcohol, so you can make your own mouthwash. Mastic tincture helps heal wounds.