Thursday, July 13, 2006

Last Mastiha post...after class go and get some OUZO!

This is my last post so I think that it is only fitting that I go out and partake in a couple of carafakia of Ouzo. If only I was on the beach in Chios where my cousins just called me from it would sure taste a lot better! But such is life...ANDIO!

Nutritional value of Mastiha as a sweet.

For all of those calorie counters out there, I thought I'd post a link to a jam that is made of Mastiha. I dont' think I've ever had mastiha in what American/Brits call jam but this is someone that has so thought it may be of interest.

XBOX and Mastiha???

So in an attempt to write some more for my was googleing Mastiha and what came up? XBox. I don't know quite why it is other than some Greek/Aussie fans were talking about the world cup and I guess X box on a forum but where did Mastiha come in? Who knows. I can't find it....

Mastiha Liquer

Mastiha is also made into a liquer. I found a good description of it on Chef2Chef. Here it is.

" It has a unique flavor. The two closest common flavors that I can think of are banana and pink bubblegum, but it is as far from these flavors as they are from each other. It enhances the natural flavor of sweet doughs when added.It is traditionally used as a flavoring in Greek cookies, e.g., Kourambiedes, but it is generally useful in cakes, icecream, and eggnog."

Check out the link to find out more about it.

Take a look at the article on newsfinder. It boasts about Mastiha but the amazing part is how far back the stuff goes. In Roman times, according to the article, woman used the stems to freshen their breath and whiten their teeth. Columbus thought that he had found a cure for cholera when he visited the island.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

so it may not be scientifically proven, but at least for this body conscious girl, mastiha has helped me control sweet cravings and food intake. you wouldn't think so from all the postings on sweets but it's true.....
it's all about chewing the gum. it's resilient, it's sugar free but sweet and it keeps going for a while so you can chew chew without any extra calories.
the things we do.....

Mastiha in ice cream? Yes...and it's good!

It's called Kaimaki. Funnily enough the word kaimaki is also the foam part on top of greek coffee.
I haven't been able to find it in the states but here's a quick recipe I found that may just work...

Sweet tooth.....

I was craving something sweet the other day and dipped into a jar of mastiha vanilla. It's a thick cream that you put into a glass of water. The cream sticks to the spoon, remember it is a sap. Think of it as thick, raw, honey. Amazingly it doesn't completely melt into the water and you can enjoy it as you sip the cool water. If you've ever eaten raw honey, think of it a bit thicker, a little less sweet and with the taste of anise. Cures the craving and it's great in the summer time.

It's summer time, it's hot and people are wearing less clothes. Sounds like a simple statement. Well what if you used mastiha to feel better your body? How you ask?

Mastiha has many properties. One of things it's used in is cremes. Body, face, name it. Check out the mastiha shop or mastic spa for the cremes that will make your body feel smooth and smell even better. Recently I introduced mastiha to my marketing class and people all remarked about the great smell of the glycerine soap. Not only does it smell good but if you sample one of the cremes you'll see why people walk around with smooth, glistening skin...And if you're interested in some SPF with that body lotion, check out the suntan lotion. You'll be smelling like the Greek island wherever you may be.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Maybe Mastiha could help people stop smoking!

In general, those who smoke have an oral fixation. The Elma gum I wrote about earlier not only helps with the oral fixation just by being a chewing gum, but because it is a natural sap, it lasts a very long time and the sweet smell lingers. It's also great for the gums and teeth so you could be leading a healthier life all around.

When you walk in Greece, especially in Hios, you'll see a lot of people chewing gum. I can't remember in which culture(s) chewing gum is deemed bad manners. Not in Greece. So in theory, you'd figure that all of those people chewing gum must have just quit smoking. Well it's true! They quit smoking alright. Up until they hit the next cafenio (cafe) for their next tsigaro (cigarette) and a nice Ouzo to make sure that if the gum they are chewing has lost it's flavour, the mastiha is not that far away.....

Well in theory it sounded like it might work, right?

It's not just the Greeks that love their Mastiha....

I had always heard as a child of the pirates that tried to conquer the mastihohoria (the mastic villages) in Hios. Recently I picked up the book, the Greek Passion by Nikos Kazantzakis. You may have heard of another one of his books, the Last Temptation of Christ. In the Greek Passion, Kazantzakis depicts a small Greek village that is still under Turkish rule. The Turkish Pasha that ruled over the village of Lycovrissi talks lovingly about the sweet smell of his Turkish boy's breath now that he's taken to chewing Mastiha. Read into it what you would like, but it's not only the Greek's that like their mastiha.

Mastiha Shop

So I've been ranting and raving about this thing called Mastiha....And where can you find it you say? Look no further. Your answer is here.....

If you live anywher near the Greek diaspora you are close. In NY, go to Astoria and Titan Foods and ask for Elma gum or Mastiha vanilla which is a sweet. If you are in a party mood, you may be tempted to buy some ouzo to drink while maybe watching the football match or if you are Greek wondering why we won the Euro cup but can't qualify for the World cup, the Euro cup DVD..but I digress...

If you'd like to try some soap products, you can check out Mastic Spa on West Broadway in Soho. It's a shop that is like "Lush" bath shop. The quality of the products isn't the same as the Korres products I wrote of before but it'll do to start your experience of mastiha.

Mastiha: the smell of summer

Smell is an amazing thing. It brings you back in time. Every summer leaving our house in Hios, I'd pack up my bags wishing that I had just a little more time to spend on the beautiful island. Coming back to the concrete jungle of NY is never a pleasant thought when you've been living the good life of beach, sun and smiles for a while.

But one thing that always takes me back is the smell of Mastiha that lingers in everything. The island has this sweet, anise like scent that comes from the trees and the crystal like sap. Amazingly enough, that sweet smell stays for months in my luggage and I'm sometimes tempted not to wash at least one piece of clothing so I can have the smell of mastiha for a couple of months into the hard winters of NY.

The smells of Hios--mastiha, figs, oregano, sea air and jasmine...mmm...I can smell it now. Summer is here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Skin care with Mastiha: a must buy in Greece or at a shop near you (well if you live in NY or Paris)

The first homeopathic pharmacy in Athens, Korres has evolved into an international brand favored by supermodels (and us normal folks too.)

Mastica not only smells great but it's proven antimicrobial and healing properties have made it popular in lotions for the face and body as well as in shampoos and conditioners. Everything from Mastiha and almond oil cleansing emulsion, mastiha and natural clay mask, masitha body butter and much much more. Korres is one of my favorite brands out there using mastiha. It reminds me of the summer time on Chios and better than anything leaves my skin soft and hair shiny. Maybe I can convince them that I'm one of those supermodels after using the product. HA!

These great products can be found at Mastiha Shop in Greece (Panepistimiou 6, Syntagma, Athens) and in Paris at the Galleries Lafayette location or here in NY at Mastiha Shop's competitor, Mastic Spa on West Broadway in Soho. Although the products at the latter store contain mastiha, I'd hold out for the really good stuff at Mastiha Shop. So maybe you'll need to book that trip to Greece soon....

Mastiha Gum

So I told you about the addictive quality of mastiha..just wait until you've tried the gum. It's at first a bit hard to chew but once you get through the hard exterior it's got the sweet flavor of a mellow anisette. Mastiha digestive properties are world renowned and there has been a study in the New England Journal of Medicine verifying it's healing properties on the digestive track. It also keeps teeth and gums healthy.

An American friend of mine that grew up in Connecticut and is living in Georgia had never experienced mastiha. She also has some pretty severe intestinal problems. After lunch one day, I pulled out a pack of ELMA gum which is the gum that is distributed throughout Greece and can be found in many Greek specialty stores outside of Greece, including the US. I offered her a piece and she was hooked. The gum helped her immediately like no other remedy she had tried before.

So if your journeys take you to our island of Hios, take a look at the locals and check out if their chewing mastiha. I bet you they will be!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Mastiha in cooking

Mastiha's flavor is something hard to describe. It's very aromatic and when used in cooking it many times adds a sweetness to the recipe. Only a small amount needs to be used for a rich, sweet flavor that is addictive. If you've ever tried Ouzo, you have tasted a bit of Mastiha with a kick! Mastiha is used to flavor Ouzo.

Here's a recipe for Loukoumia: A Greek style Turkish Delight.

The name 'Turkish Delight' is attributed to an English traveller in the 19th century who shipped some of the sweet back to Britain under this name.This Greek version uses 'mastiha' resin.


2 cups of cornflour
1/3 cup of gelatine
3 cups of water
6 cups of sugar
1/cup of chopped toasted almonds
1 tbspn mastiha gum
icing sugar to dust

Ground the mastiha gum with a morter and pestle. Place sugar, water, cornflour and mastiha on to boil. Stir over high heat until boiling. (Electric beaters are best used.) Lower heat and simmer to thicken and becomes transparent. Add almonds. Pour mixture into a tray lined with sieved icing sugar. Using a sieve, cover the top with more icing sugar. Place in the fridge and let set overnight. Cut into cubes and dust all sides with icing sugar.
Serving Suggestion: Serve with coffee or iced water

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Collection Mastiha: a family tradition

For centuries the collection of mastiha has been a family affair. We come from the village of Kalamoti which is located in the "mastihohoria" of Chios. That means villages producing mastiha. When it comes to the cultivation of the mastiha, the work is hard and takes time producing only a handful of mastiha that has a value in monetary terms similar to that of gold.

The cultivation begins with lining the bottom of the tree with white sand for the sap to fall. Then once the tree is hit, one goes back for several days to monitor and then to collect the sap that hardens to a resin. Once the resin in collected, the entire village comes together to clean the resin and get it ready for market. Getting the resin ready is tiring work, separating the sand from the crystally white colored mastiha. It is sifted and sifted until the cleanest mastiha is found. During this sometimes tedious task, family and friends use the time to talk, gossip and sing. In our modern times, with televisions, computers, ipods and more gadgets than we can count, it's amazing to sit around "the mastiha table" and spend time with loved ones. And sometimes even those people in the village that you far from love but at that moment can share a good laugh with.

The Mastic Tree:

The scientific name of the mastic tree is Pistachia Lent sus var.chia (local name "shinos"). It is an evergreen shrub tree, 2-3 meters high that develops very slowly and becomes fully grown after 40-50 years. it's life span in around 100 years. it produces mastiha after the 5th year of life. The tree is resilient to various weather conditions but is sensitive to frost and bad manipulation.

Similar trees are found in the Meditteranean but only in Chios does the tree and nature produce the magical recipe that brings a resource used to give pleasure, relief and remedy to so many. the cultivation along with the gathering and processing of mastiha are done all 4 seasons of the year and have always been a family affair.

Mastiha:what is it?

Mastiha has been the gold of the island, Chios, for centuries. It is the resinous sap of a tree found predominately on this Greek island in the Aegean, the island of my mother and my family. The sap is taken from the trunk and branches of the tree by hitting it with a sharp object to allow the resin to seep out. It appears in teardrop shapes and comes out as a crystal form that hardens and has a magical scent.
Mastiha is valued for it's many uses.
  • antioxidant
  • oral hygien
  • antimicrobial agent
  • prevention and detection of peptic system diseases such as ulcers
  • healing agent
  • seasoning