Mastic is an aromatic, amber-like resin, and dries into hardened, brittle drops.
It is the resin from the Mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus), traditionally produced on the Greek island of Chios. While this little tree can be found also in other places, it is seemingly only on Chios they “weep” their resin when cuts are made in the bark of the branches.
The hardened sap of the Acacia tree – Gum Arabic – looks very similar to Mastic. While both count as natural gums, Mastic and Gum Arabic (E 414) are, however, different products (with Mastic having much more aroma and taste than Gum Arabic).
Mastic comes from from the mastic plant on the Island of Chios in Greece and is a protected product.
Tears of mastic come from this mastic plant and were used as one of the original chewing gums, hence the name as in to masticate or chew.
They are chewy in a crunchy rather than chewy gum way and have cleansing taste akin to furniture polish which is strangely pleasing.
The gum mastic tree, Pistacia lentiscus, comes traditionally from the Greek island of Chios.
The mastic tree has shiny, dark-green leaves, with a rough trunk which exudes a lear resinous substance when tapped.
This resin is gum mastic. Gum mastic trees start production when 5-6 years old and can be used for production for 65-70 years.
The resin is collected, washed, cleaned and then laid out to dry.
Gum mastic is usally sold as tears, or small pieces, of 2-3mm in size (1/8 inch), with a brittle texture and a faint pine-like aroma.
Gum mastic has a flavour that is bitter and mineral-like that becomes more neutral after a few minutes of chewing, keeping its freshening flavour even after 15 or more minutes.
Mastic is now used more as thickening agent in ice cream, sauces and seasoning in Lebanon.
In Egypt mastic is used in jams with a gummy consistency; Mastic is used in desserts such as Delight, dondurma, puddings , salep, brioches, and blancmange, porridge, and soft drinks; in Greece, mastic is used to prepare mastic liqueurs mastic like Mastichato, a spoon sweet known as “vanilla”, beverages, chewing gum, cakes, pastries, sweets, desserts.
Mastic is another specialist spice.