Foodies can delight
Its uniqueness alone makes us covet it! – but there are some fabulous ways to appreciate and enjoy Chios Masticha.
Masticha is used extensively in the production of alcoholic beverages, notably ouzo and liqueurs. Drink up!
It is also used in sweets, candies, Turkish Delight (loukoumia), biscuits, ice cream, puddings, buns, and crackers. Sometimes it is even used in making cheese.
It is wonderful when used as a crust ingredient for chicken and seafood.
In the summertime, Greeks enjoy a Masticha drink called soumada – an elixir of almond milk, Masticha, sugar and water and sometimes a strong spirit called tsipouro. Another refreshing concoction is hypovrihio (which means submarine), prepared using a liquid form of Masticha, mixed with honey or sugar, and spooned into cold water. It sinks, hence submarine.
Masticha is an important ingredient in Greek festival breads, including the New Year's traditional vasilopitta (St. Basil's Bread). The twisted tsoureki, produced year-round, is also Masticha-based (and it makes a wonderful french toast if it's a little stale). Masticha also is essential to myro, used ceremonially in Greek
It is perhaps the most famous indigenous Greek spice and is coveted in Cyprus and throughout Arabia. Arabs consider it a great luxury to flavor their food, sweets, even their milk with gum mastic; this fact is even referenced in their sacred books.
The trees' lentisk berries are used to flavor sausages; its leaves and stems are burned to smoke meats.
The resin itself makes a fantastic chewing gum, which not only lasts a long time without disintegrating, it also freshens breath and whitens teeth. Step aside, Dentyne!! Masticha was the chewing gum of the sultans and their harems. Imagine -- the chewing gum of the kings. (Not coincidentally, the word "masticate" -- chew -- has the same root as Masticha.)Plus, it's good for your Health. Masticha is a traditional remedy for stomach aches and heartburn, and has of late been proven as a treatment and cure for peptic ulcers. It is believed that Hippocrates used it in this capacity. Christopher Columbus was also a strong advocate and believed it was a good treatment of cholera.
Further, regular consumption has been proven to absorb cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart attacks and easing high blood pressure. It also helps reduce triglycerides and total lipid levels.
Mastic oil has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, and as such is widely used in the preparation of ointments for skin disorders and afflictions, including eczema, burns, frostbite and cancers, and is also used in the manufacture of plasters. It’s not just good for your skin, it’s good for your hair as well, which is why that new darling of the cosmetics world, Korres Natural Products, has developed a special line of hair, skin and beauty care products based on the resin.
And finally, as referenced above, it is excellent for oral hygeine, and has been proven to reduce bacterial plaque in the mouth by 41.5%. This explains why many toothpastes and mouthwashes have mastic as their main ingredient.
Where you can find it
Masticha is produced exclusively by a cooperative known as the Chios Mastic Growers Association. This association handles all exports of the product as well as operates a store, through a subsidiary, called simply The Mastiha Shop. These may be found on Chios itself, as well as near Syndagma Square in Athens, Thessaloniki, Athens El. Venizelos International Airport, and in Heraklion, Crete. Several herbal supplement makers offer processed products that use Masticha. The best, however, is to buy it in its natural form. Several companies import Masticha from Greece and sell it on the web. Alternately, you could pick it up at its source. Now that really would be a vacation that’s good for your health!