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Chios Mastiha

October 31, 2018

Learning the secrets to Greece’s most precious superfood

 (Photo credit: Chios Gum Mastic Growers Association)

 

If you’ve traveled to Greece, you’ve most likely graced the shores of Santorini, Mykonos, and Crete, but have you discovered the bountiful island of Chios?

 

Known as the fifth largest of the Greek islands, Chios is situated in the Aegean Sea just 4.3 miles off the Anatolian coast. Due to its distinct region and unique terroir, Chios is the only destination in the world that grows Pistacia lentiscus (or the mastic tree), the primary source of Chios Mastiha.

 

Chios Mastiha is one of Greece’s most precious superfoods. In its raw form, it is a translucent, aromatic resin that seeps from the mastic tree. Registered as a Product of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) in the European Union, harvesting the resin is no simple task. Mastiha growers must carefully make small incisions on the surface of the tree to collect the mystical teardrops that are known to carry significant therapeutic value.

 
The art of harvesting Mastiha has been passed down from one generation to the next, meticulously done by hand and with great pride. Currently, there are 4,850 Mastiha growers in Chios, located in
24 medieval villages known as the “Mastichochoria.” It is here where the magic of Mastiha begins.

 

Exported to 47 countries, Chios Mastiha is a unique ingredient that has a variety of applications. Commonly found as a crystal, powder, capsule, oil or gum, it can be used in food and beverages, pharmaceuticals, beauty products, and perfumes. I was lucky enough to experience Chios Mastiha on a deeper level at a recent event hosted in San Francisco at One Market Restaurant by The Chios Mastiha Growers Association. In partnership with Colangelo & Partners and San Francisco’s very own Tablehopper and food expert, Marcia Gagliardi, attending guests had the opportunity to sample Mastiha resin in its natural form, as a chewing gum, as a liqueur, and infused into One Market’s grilled octopus and lemon meringue tarts. This tasting was unforgettable due to Chios Mastiha’s unique flavor.

 

Coming from a long history of working with wine, I thoroughly enjoy evaluating new flavors and aromas. Chios Mastiha’s characteristics are incredibly exotic. Biting down on a teardrop of resin, there is a burst of flavor that intertwines notes of pine, cedar, wild fennel, and anise. As you continue to chew, there are softer herbal notes with a hint of earthiness that reminds me of being on the Greek islands. The resin exhibits such complex flavors, which makes Chios Mastiha a one of a kind product to cook with or to use in a cocktail.

 

 (Photo credit: Chios Gum Mastic Growers Association)

 

Known as an ancient cooking spice in Greece, the Greek’s have mastered Chios Mastiha’s flavors in the kitchen. When preparing for a meal, the best way to infuse a dish is to use the resin in its powdered form. Once the crystals have been ground down, Chios Mastiha can be incorporated into a variety of recipes. Hostess and guest speaker, Marcia Gagliardi, recommends infusing it into an olive oil using a recipe by Greek American cookbook author and celebrity chef, Diane Kochilas.

 

MASTIHA-SCENTED OLIVE OIL RECIPE

 

Ingredients:
1 packet (about a heaping tablespoon) small or medium-sized Chios Mastiha crystals
250 ML (1 ¼ cups) Extra-Virgin Greek Olive Oil

 

Directions:
Heat 80ml (about ¾ cup) of olive oil and the Chios Mastiha in a nonstick skillet over low heat. Pour into a bottle, let cool, and add the remaining olive oil. Use immediately or store in a cool, dark place. Shake before using.

 

(Photo credit: Chios Gum Mastic Growers Association)

 

In addition to infused olive oil, Chios Mastiha also makes an excellent aperitif or digestif. My first experience tasting Mastiha as a liqueur was not in San Francisco, but in Athens on a full moon. After dining at a fantastic rooftop restaurant facing the Acropolis, my fiance’s Greek family suggested trying it to help digest dinner. From the moment I tasted it, Chios Mastiha covered my palate with such lively and unforgettable flavors. If you are a cocktail connoisseur, this is an absolute must try. Look for KLEOS Mastiha Spirit, Greece's first luxury spirit brand owned an operated by women. 

 

      ONE MARKET’S KLEOS MASTIHA COCKTAIL

 

Ingredients:
2 parts KLEOS Mastiha Spirit
1⁄2 part fresh lime juice
1⁄4 part citrus tonic
mint leaves to taste


Directions:
Shake all ingredients vigorously. Next, strain over fresh crushed ice in a highball. Lastly, garnish with a lime wheel & mint sprig.

 

 

Chios Mastiha has long been hailed as one of the great wonders of the natural world. Not only is it known for its distinctive aroma and healing properties, but it has also been recorded as the first natural chewing gum of the ancient world. Pretty cool, right?

 

Regardless of how you choose to consume it, the magic of Chios Mastiha will captivate your senses. To learn more about Chios Mastiha and where to purchase, please visit The Chios Mastiha Growers Association website at www.precious-drops.eu.

 

Yamas!

 

Jamie Evans
Founder, The Herb Somm

 

 

About The Author

Jamie Evans is the founder of The Herb Somm. She is an educator, host, and writer specializing in cannabis, food, recipes, wine, and the canna-culinary world. In addition to her work in the cannabis industry, Jamie has over ten years of wine industry experience. Having represented a wide array of organizations and wineries, she is best known for producing high-end events and developing top-notch public relations, marketing, and hospitality programs. She was also recently named as one of Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers in 2018.

Photo Credit: Scott McDermott for Wine Enthusiast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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