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Greek Spice Mastixa Net Wt. 0.5oz

Greek Spice
Net Wt. 0.5oz
  Mastic Greek Spoon Sweet

Mastic Greek Spoon Sweet
  Sarantis Mastic Gum with sugar

Sarantis Mastic Gum with sugar
  More Chios Mastiha products ...  

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Below the low, sclerophyllous evergreen growth of the maquis tree, the form of vegetation that is so characteristic of the Mediterranean area, there is a shrub which only occurs on the south of the island of Chios. This is the subspecies Pistacia lentiscus var. chic, the mastic bush. When its bark is damaged, it exudes a sweet smelling, white, transparent resin, already much prized in ancient times. It was particularly valued for its stickiness, which is preserved, indeed only really develops, when a lump of resin is chewed. So it was used very early on, mainly for oral hygiene. Dioskourides refers to it in his pharmacology as a cosmetic substance. Because of its scent it was used in perfumes and as incense for improving the air. The oil obtained from the resin was used to ward off colds, coughs, and sneezes.

In the Middle Ages, it was the Genoese in particular who carried on the trade in mastic throughout the Mediterranean area and helped the island to achieve relative prosperity. During the time of Ottoman rule on Chios, the Sultan permitted the inhabitants to continue the mastic trade virtually unhindered. However, instead of taxes he demanded an annual tribute of half the production of this valuable raw material, a large part of which ended up in the seraglio in Istanbul, the sultan's harem, where it was used as chewing gum. In addition, mastic soon found a use as a food additive. Though the mastic farmers of Chios were highly regarded throughout the Middle Ages in Greece, the few farmers left today must fight for survival. Even if growing conditions on Chios are good for the shrub, and the resin is still used, it is under increasing pressure from synthetic resins, except for flavoring the ouzo produced on the island. The resin, which is traded in the form of a firm, granular material, is used among other things as an element in the formulation of adhesives, special cements and varnishes, and as an aromatic additive to incense, toothpaste, and chewing gum (Greek: mastikha). Mastic has an unusually intense taste and a fragrant, flowery aroma and is therefore used in various Greek and oriental sweets or confections such as khalvas and loukotimia.

The much praised resin
flows from the cuts
The surface of the mastic crystal is
cleaned with a pointed knife
The pieces of collected resin come in different shapes and sizes
Mastic collecting begins in the middle of August, when up to eight cross-shaped cuts are made in the bark, so the resin can flow out and set. It takes about 15 days to dry before it can be collected. The grains of mastic are sifted to remove pollutants such as sand, then it is washed with cold water and soap, and laid out to dry. At the same time, the last particles of dirt are scratched off with a knife. Finally, it is sifted again, during which the individual lumps or "tears" of resin are sorted according to quality and size.

excerpts from: "Culinaria Greece"

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