Greece/Chios: Mastic

Chios is world famous for mastic – a resin sap of a bushy evergreen plant that is common and grows all over the island. Mastic has been known and cultivated from antiquity for over 2500 years – ancient Greeks used it as medicine for stomach, Romans added it to wine, in Byzantine times it was a major trade item, and in the Ottoman Empire it was worth its weight in gold. Sultans supplied the finest mastic to his harems and stealing mastic was punishable by death. Chios is all about mastic – stores sell anything and everything mastic and restaurant serve mastic liquor. And old ladies in small mountain villages sort out mastic sap drops from sand and gravel. A visit to a mastic plantation was also a must-do – to see the sap producing trees up close and personal.