The Chios mastic gum
Chios mastic is a unique agricultural product produced in a small area in the south part of Chios. The settlements of the mastic producing region are called "mastic villages".
Mastic is the product of the mastic tree, prospering only in south Chios. There is evidence that cultivation and exploitation of mastic originates in ancient years, during the Hellenistic period. Despite competition from other species of mastic at that time, Chios mastic's superior quality established it as a unique product with significant commercial value and exclusivity of supply.
The Byzantine empire delivered the island to the Genovese on the 14 th century. The Genovese managed to systematize production and trading of mastic. The Ottomans, successors of the Genovese mandated the people of Chios to pay special taxes in kind (mastic). After World War I, mastic production declined and its value dropped. The establishment of the cooperative"Mastic Growers' Cooperative" – despite adverse conditions and the World War II– contributed in an increase in production. During recent years, systematic research, development and promotion have increased sales, reputation but also the income of the mastic producers, whose interest has been revived considerably.
Production process of the Chios mastic
Little has changed in the mastic production process from the ancient times until today. The exploitation of the trees for the extraction mastic (their resin), starts from the fifth year of their life. The period of their cultivation is from July until the beginning of October. The first step in the process is the leveling and cleaning of the perimeter around the trunk of the tree, where the mastic falls. The next step is the spread of white soil (calcium carbonate powder) on this area in order to facilitate gathering without altering its chemical composition. Then the "kentos" starts, in other words the carving of scars (incisions) on the skin of the tree. The incisions are made systematically: 5-10 on each tree, every 4-5 days. The resin flows progressively from the incisions, falling on the ground where it solidifies gradually, providing either large chunks ("pites") or smaller ones ("psilo"). These chunks, once collected, are cleaned by the mastic producers and their families through a tedious process that typically lasts throughout the winter.
Sounds interesting? Find out more and take part in the mastic production process by participating in one of Masticulture's activities.