Mastic is the resinous sap that is collected from trees on the Greek island of Chios, and these translucent droplets are charmingly referred to as ‘tears’.
Mastic has a slight pine-like flavor and can be chewed just like chewing gum but where Mastic really shines is in its culinary use.
Mastic is used in cooking for the consistency it gives to Greek slow-cooked lamb. In The Spice & Herb Bible there is a recipe for an Asparagus and Mastic Summer Soup.
Mastic is used for the consistency it gives to ice cream and sweets, it is used to make chewing gum and confectionery, it is found in recipes for breads and pastries, ice-creams, sweet puddings and almond cake.
Mastic is also an essential ingredient in the making of liqueurs and is included in the best and most authentic Turkish delight.
Today the Gum Mastic Grower’s Association lists 64 uses for mastic, extolling among other things, its anti-cancer properties, use in treatment of duodenal ulcers, benefits for oral hygiene and use in South Morocco and Mauritania as an aphrodisiac.
We have noticed an increase in awareness of mastic as an ingredient, so have decided to share some previous information to help demystify this fascinating and useful spice.
Mastic is the name given to the resinous gum that exudes from the scored bark of the Gum Mastic Tree. There are many varieties of mastic trees (Pistacia lentiscus) in the Mediterranean and Middle East, yet most of the world’s production of gum mastic comes from the “Protected Designation of Origin” trees (P. lentiscus var. Chia) that grow on the Greek island of Chios. The name mastic derives from the Greek word mastichon which means to chew.
Between June and September, Mastic farmers ‘hurt’ the trees by scoring the bark. The tears that ooze out in stalactite-like strands fall onto white kaolin clay that has been spread on the ground below the trees. This promotes drying and contributes to the clarity of the mastic that falls onto it.