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Think Spice.. Think Twice: Masticha (Mastic Resin) and Fennel Seeds


I have the pleasure to announce that I am going to be this month’s host of Think Spice, created by Sunita, of Sunita’s World.  When I contacted Sunita way back in May, last year,  asking if I could host one of the events, Sunita gladly replied to me that I would host in February.  My wish was to host an event featuring the Greek mastic resin called “masticha” in Greek.

A few days ago, Sunita sent me a reminder but I had second thoughts.  Although I love mastic gum, I knew that it would be quite difficult for many of you to participate as it would be difficult to find this spice, unless you lived somewhere near a Greek community.

I asked Sunita if she could do an exception so that I may host the event featuring two spices,  as if I decided to host a more popular spice, I saw the possibility of someone else featuring this spice very remote.    Sunita, was kind enough to make this exception and I thank her from the bottom of my heart.

Think Spice… Think Mastic Gum.

Mastic gum (
Μαστίχα, pronounced masticha), deriving either from the Greek verb mastichein (“to gnash the teeth”, origin of the English word masticate) or massein (“to chew”), is a resin produced by the Pistacia lentiscus, which is a shrub which lives over 100 years, reaching 2 – 3 metres high. This variety of shrubs are encountered all over the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries but for reasons that are not entirely understood, only the trees cultivated in the southern part of the Greek island of Chios produce the distinctively flavoured resin. Some people say the key lies in the underwater volcanoes of Chios.   Others refer to the legend of St. Isidore, who was tortured by the Romans and left bleeding under a mastic tree.   Out of sympathy for the martyr, the tree began to cry.   Its tears became the crystal mastic gum.

This aromatic, ivory coloured resin is originally in liquid form, coming out of the “wounded” shrub.  It is produced in the bark and not in the wood, and in order to collect it numerous vertical incisions are made which make it tear. The liquid tears drop are then sun dried into hard, brittle, translucent resins. When chewed, the resin softens and becomes a bright white and opaque gum.   In ancient times, the mastic resin was the first chewing gum known.  Mastic Gum was highly revered for its medicinal properties in the relief of symptoms of dyspepsia and other intestinal disorders. The benefits of this naturally occurring resin is now being rediscovered in modern medicine for its antimicrobial effects and for the treatment of ulcer.

The culinary uses of this spice is to flavour desserts, cakes, pastries, puddings, ice creams, cookies, sweets etc. and it can easily substitute vanilla. It is also used for flavouring spirits and liquors, such as Chios’s local drinks of Matichato & Masticha. In savory recipes it is used as a spice to flavour sauces, bread, cheese, meat, fish, seafood and pies but also by using the mastic flavoured spirits.

Within the European Union, Chios Mastic production is granted protected designation of origin (PDO) and a protected geographical indication (PGI) name.

Turning the tear drops into powder!!

The best way of doing this is by using a mortar and pestle. Before doing this put the mastic resins in the deep freezer for about an hour until they become very hard.  Add a few mastic tear drops with sugar or salt, depending if it is used in a sweet or savory recipe and pound it to a fine dust.

Think Spice… Think Fennel Seeds.

Fennel Seed is the oval, green or yellowish-brown dried fruit is a member of the parsley family. Fennel is native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean area. Its Greek name Μαραθόσπορος (marathosporos) comes from the Greek word “marathos (Foeniculum vulgare) and sporos which means seed”.  The famous battle of Marathon (490 BC) against the Persians, takes its name from this plant because on the fields, the fennel plants were in abbundance.

Fennel seeds have a sweetly refreshing licorice-anise flavor. It is used for meats and poultry, but even more for fish and seafood. It is also used as a seasoning in bread and pastries and in candies and also for medicinal purposes (fennel oil and fennel tea for infants).

To be a part of this event, you just have to do the following:

1. Cook up something in which either “mastic gum” or “fennel seeds” feature as the main spice.

2. Post it on your blog anytime between today and midnight, in any part of world you live in, of the 28th of February and please link back to this post and Sunita’s
World.Feel free to use any of the above three logos with your post.

3. Send me an e-mail at
ivyliac AT gmail DOT com, with Think Spice.. Think Twice:Mastic Gum or Fennel Seeds as the subject, with the following details:

  • Your name and location,
  • Your blog’s name and URL,
  • The name of your dish and URL (permalink) to your post,
  • A photo, if possible. Don’t worry about resizing.I can do that for you.

4. Non bloggers are also welcome. If you do not have a blog but would like to be a part of this event, please send me your recipe and write-up (with picture, if possible) at the above e-mail and I would be happy to include it in the roundup.

5.Multiple entries are welcome.

I hope you enjoy both spices.

Kopiaste and Kali Orexi,

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24 Responses

  1. Two wonderful spices! A great event!



  2. Ivy, We make laddos of edible gum in India. I am not sure whether it is called mastic gum. It is called Gum Arabica. Mastic Gum is new to me. ‘Saunf’is a good choice. Will try to send something 🙂

  3. Ivy

    Rosa, thanks,

    Lakshmi, I google searched Gum Arabica and from what I read unfortunately it does not seem to be the same thing.

  4. s

    You’re most welcome, dear Ivy. It’s nice to know about unusual spices…will be very interesting to go through the recipes featuring mastic gum 🙂

  5. OOPS!!! BTW, the S was me :-O

  6. I am not familiar with mastic gum but after reading your introduction, I’m anxious to try it…if I can find some. Meantime, I wanted to add that fennel seeds are perhaps my favorite spice.

  7. PG

    Thank you so much about introducing us to this beautifull looking spice, Mastic gum. I hadn’t heard of it before. Have to try finding it here.
    Will try to send you something for the event.

  8. Ivy

    Thanks again Sunita.

    Joan, I fell in love with fennel seeds from the very first time, whereas there are many other spices which I grew to like in time, such as oregano, basil, cumin. When I came to Greece I couldn’t stand oregano but now I can’t live without it.

    PG I hope you and others will try and find it because it is worth while.

  9. Fennel are known to me,we usually eat them after the meals for good digestion,I do have a recipe in mind too,will try to send it.The unique mastic gum,I’m not sure its sold here,will look around.

  10. Oh wow congrats dear on hosting a spicy event…. Looking for to know more about mastic gum…

  11. Interesting event Ivy … I look forward to making something.

  12. Dont know what mastic gum is but I’m very familiar with Fennel!! Great post Ivy!

  13. This is one event I always try to be a part of. The first spice is out for me (can’t find it here) but the second one, now that’s a staple in my kitchen.:)

  14. giz

    That was quite the education Ivy. You really do your homework. Now I’m very curious about this product. Fennel seeds – no problem.

  15. Ivy

    Thank you very much for your comments. I can see that most of you do not know what mastic gum is and I can understand. However, if ever you find it do not hesitate to try it as I am sure you will love it. I have already prepared a sweet and a savory recipe and hope to post them soon, so that you may get an idea. I have already posted a few recipes in the past using mastic gum.

  16. I have never heard of Mastic Gum and now I am curious to find some.

  17. Hi Ivy, I still have the gum mastic that you gave me – this is a perfect opportunity to use it. i have given you an award at http://kitchenlaw.blogspot.com/2009/01/australians-all-let-us-rejoice-vanilla.html.

  18. I have neve rcooked with mastic gum and woudn’t know where to get them, butyeah fennel that i have and sure will send you something delicious 😉

  19. I think I’ll go for fenell seeds.
    I’m not sure if I’d find mastic gum here in Barcelona.

  20. Ivy

    jsut mailed you my entry.

  21. Hello Ivy,

    I 100% go for the Mastic Gum….or in Arabic we call Miskeh
    we use it in all our desserts, cookies and puddings…and also in european desserts…excellent in ice creams
    it’s very precious to me. I even use it as natural gum with a small piece of home candle “specially” if you have bad breath… this is a great spice.

  22. mastic was a great choice. i made ice cream out of it for your event!

  23. Great site. Good info

  24. Great site. Keep doing.