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The Wounded Tree
If a trademark were to be established for Chios, then surely it would
be the mastic tree. It is a gift and at the same time a curse since it has always
been the bone of contention for conquerors. This evergreen tree called Schinos,
belongs to the botanical family Pistachia. The average growth of the tree ranges
from 6 to 10 feet tall and it begins to produce mastic at the age of 5 to 6 years
old. This amazing tree thrives within the 21 mastic villages of southern Chios
The oldest references to mastic have been traced back to Herodotes
in the 5th Century B.C. The people of Ancient
Greece chewed mastic to whiten their teeth and if you think about it, mastic
was the unique chewing gum even then! During the Roman period, toothpicks were
made from the mastic tree and the use of mastic spread to the harems of the East.
Tradition says that God blessed the mastic tree which began to "cry"
in 250 A.D., when St. Isidoros cried out in pain during his martyrdom.
The Magical Tears
Mastic has a plethora of qualities and uses. It absorbs cholesterol,
is an antibacterial acts as an oral antiseptic, aids digestion, tightens the gums,
heals wounds and scientists recently discovered that when it is administrated
in small doses it cures stomach ulcers.
Aside from the medical aspects, these magical tears are used in distilleries
to produce mastic liqueur and mastic-flavored ouzo called mastichato.
There are also culinary uses for mastic. For example, mastic is used
in baking and in sweets such as biscuits, mastic ice cream, and mastic sweets
of the spoon.
In a refined form, it is also used as the primary ingredient for toothpaste,
shampoos, perfumes, in frankincense, and varnish.
Kendos- The Incision
The collection of mastic begins when the mastic producers clean the
area under the tree and they cover it with white clay so that the tears will stay
clear and dry faster as they fall to the ground. The kendos begins in June and
lasts through September.
The mastic producers make an incision along the tree trunk in the
shape of an arch with the kentitiri. Their day begins early before sunrise and
they make their way to the fields with their donkeys in one of the most picturesque
scenes ever seen on the island those days. The mastic growers are suitably dressed
and well equipped in their endeavor, racing against the sun, trying to avoid his
The curing of the mastic tree ends before the sun reaches its highest
point. When the tears have been coagulated, the mastic laborers use the timitiri
to gather the precious crystals. Every little piece of this natural product is
collected even if it is mixed with dust.
The narrow streets of the mastic villages come alive as the mastic
collectors start the tahtarisma (sifting), the cleaning of the crystals with soap
and cold water, the drying and the scratching of the mastic tears. This is a social
If you visit the mastic villages during that period you will feel
the warmth of the people prevailing in every corner of the village.
After all, isn’t this the real magic of mastic?
This text is cited May 2004 from the Promoting Tourism Prefectural Committee of Chios URL below.
Chios Prefecture Tourism Committee WebPage
http://www.chios.gr/products/mastic.htm (7 img.)
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