Know-how of cultivating mastic on the island of Chios


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Inscribed in 2014 (9.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Silas Michalakas, 2011

Mastic is cultivated on the island of Chios from the aromatic resin mastiha, which is extracted from the shrub pistacia lentiscus. Mastic has long been renowned for its numerous properties and its culture is a family occupation that requires laborious care throughout the year by men and women of all ages who participate on equal terms in the various stages. Men take care of the natural fertilization and pruning of the shrubs in winter, while from mid-June, women sweep, level and clean the ground around the trunk, so that the mastic can easily be recovered. From July, an incision is made in the skin of the bark and main branches with an iron tool. Once the mastic has solidified, women select the larger ‘tears’ first, wash them and place them in wooden boxes in a cool place. Older members of the community are responsible for transmitting the techniques for incision and harvesting the mastiha to younger generations. The culture of mastic represents a comprehensive social event, around which networks of alliances and mutual help have been established. The communal practices are also an occasion for perpetuating collective memory through the narration of old tales and stories.