One of the joys of travel is wandering into random shops and picking up interesting looking items. If you were exploring the Greek island of Chios, for example, you might sample fruit preserves or other goodies that contain mastiha, a local specialty made from the resin of the mastic tree. Prized since ancient times for its medicinal properties—Roman ladies used it to keep their teeth clean—mastiha was one of the most valuable commodities of the Middle Ages, traded throughout the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and the Middle East. It is still used in these areas in cooking, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics—mastiha is also a centuries-old digestive aid and skincare treatment—though it is relatively unknown elsewhere (which is where we come in...).
More recently, this secret Greek superfood has been found to have antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which as far as we’re concerned makes it a food worth familiarizing yourself with. This trio of mastiha-based delicacies from Manhattan-based Mastihashop—Mastiha Sweet in Pistachio and Sour Cherry, Fig Paste With Honey and Tea and two flavors of fruit preserves, Baby Apple and Lemon—not only taste delicious, herbal and faintly licorice-like, but they’re good for you. We like the preserves and the fig paste spread on toast or as a topping for ice cream.
But our favorite new treat is the Mastiha Sweet, which Chios residents offer to guests who are visiting their home as a welcoming delicacy. Dip a teaspoon into the smooth confection, then submerge it into a glass of cold water to make a soft, multi-colored lollipop known in Greece as a submarine. Heavenly—and healthy. What more could you ask for?