Mastiha production is a family affair and requires work and attention throughout the whole year. In December, growers start to fertilize the lentisks, in order to complement the natural fertilization ensured by the dead leaves of the tree itself. Mid-January and throughout February they prune lower branches to give a specific shape to the tree and to create passages for the circulation of air and light as well as for the drying of resin. Before the tree carving process and mastiha’s gathering, the ground around the trunk needs to be free from other plants. Thus, from mid-June to the beginning of July cleaning and soil leveling take place so that any mastiha drops that may fall on the ground can be easily gathered.
The cleaning process is done in a “circular” way around the trunk (creating “tables”); then follow the sweeping of the scraped soil and its leveling, done with well riddled white soil powder, which is spread and firmly pressed on the ground to create a smooth surface. The kentos, as we call the carving of small scars on the lentisk’s bark, is the most crucial stage in mastiha production. It begins in July and goes on throughout August, while sometimes there may be more carvings up until the end of September. With the help of a small sharp iron tool with grooved ends, called kentitiri, they make small cuts on the tree’s trunk and main branches, beginning from the lowest part of the trunk and going up to the branches. The first gathering is done after the 15th of August. Mastiha starts solidifying within 15-20 days from the first carving. We first gather the larger mastiha chunks, the co-called pites.
The rest is gathered with the help of “brooms” or by hand. Mastiha is then put into wooden boxes and stored in cool places where it shall be diligently cleaned in order to be finally delivered to the cooperative. Then, Chios Mastiha Growers Association that assembles the total production within a six-month period of time, processes the product, packages it and manages the international trade of different types of mastiha according to its size (pita, large or small chunks), and of mastiha products such as ELMA chewing gum, mastiha oil, mastiha oil water and mastiha powder.
It is worth mentioning that mastiha production process has remained practically unchanged by time, something that unbreakably connects it to the historical tradition of Southern Chios.