Chios is the only place in the world where a special type of lentisk resin is produced by the mastic tree. The cultivation of the mastic has been known since ancient times and it has been strongly tied to the islands history. The importance of this unique product, made the island many times in the past a target for various conquerors. In fact, one of the main reasons the Medieval Villages were built like fortresses, was to protect the mastic and its producers from the barbarian raiding parties who often attacked the island to steal mastic and women. While the island was under Genoese and Turkish control, special privileges and certain freedom were given to the villages in the region where the mastic tree grows.
The harvesting of the resin takes place
between July 1st and October 31. For the collection of the raw mastic,
small incisions are made on the trunk of the trees and the mastic gum flows
in the form of liquid drops which become solid as soon as they come into
contact with the air. This procedure is called the "Kentima".
A variety of products is made from the mastic resin, including chewing gum, alcoholic drinks, sweets, spices, perfumes, and various chemicals; while the most important use is by the medical industry all over the world.
Today, almost 5.000 families in the southern Chios earn a significant portion of their incomes by cultivating the mastic tree. Most of the product (almost 90%) is exported, mainly to the Arabic countries.