Natalie Martin, Greek City Times • Updated 29th November 2020
Driven by their love for the island of Chios and its precious trees, Lena Ziglaki and her husband George Konstantelias decided to create their own environmental project.
A project to save old or abandoned Chios mastiha trees and olive trees in South Chios.
Chios mastiha (or mastic) is the natural, aromatic, translucent resin that oozes from the trunk and branches of the mastic tree, merging like tear drops.
This sticky, thick fluid hardens after about 15 days into irregular crystals of varying shapes and sizes.
Since ancient times, mastiha, exclusively found on the southern part of the Greek island of Chios, has been renowned for its medicinal and therapeutic values and as an exotic spice.
It is also often referred to as the oldest superfood in the world.
Chios mastiha is available in different forms inlcuding crystal, powder, capsules, oil and gum.
Chios mastiha has been scientifically proven to have beneficial properties including antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, wound healing and skin regeneration, digestive, and oral hygiene.
Chios mastiha is protected by the European Union and UNESCO as a unique product and the precious ‘tears’ are harvested in a very specialised and labour intensive process which has been passed down through the generations.
This traditional Chios mastiha cultivation process has been included by UNESCO in the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
After desiring a change in her professional career as an architectural and 3d imaging draughtswoman, Lenia Ziglaki and her husband George Konstantelias, a chief marine engineer, decided to devote themselves to Chios mastiha and olive tree cultivation and regeneration.
Lenia admits it was not an easy decision, as agricultural work is very hard.
Cultivation and caring for the trees is a very labour intensive and specific year-round process.
For the Chios Mastiha trees this process involves pruning the trees, enriching the soil, weeding, spreading a covering of clean white clay under the tree, ‘kentos’ (piercing the bark); and washing the Chios mastiha drops.
The olive trees require harvesting the crop; pressing for oil as well as so many other year-round tasks.
But for Lenia, having grown up in a family of mastiha-growers, it would never be possible to forget the scented family house at the time of cleaning and washing the Mastiha.
Nor possible to forget her parents’ faces, coloured by the toil of the mastiha cultivation, and also by their joy when they delivered their Chios mastiha to the Chios Mastiha Growers Association.
So in 2018, Lenia and her husband began weeding her family’s fields in Mesa Didima, one of the 24 mastiha villages of Southern Chios.
However, very soon surrounding neighbours began to entrust them with their own deserted fields, so that they may be able to: “see again their trees take and give life”.
“It is a very powerful feeling when you see trees taken care of, well-groomed and ready to offer their fruit,” says Lenia. “And the people of Chios value this a lot!”
In 2019 Lenia and George created the project www.adoptchiostrees.gr, with the wish to introduce the precious trees of Chios that heal the body and soul to the world.
Through the project www.adoptchiostrees.gr people from around the globe are able to adopt a Chios mastiha tree for €60.
Together with an adoption certificate, foster parents receive 50 gram of natural Chios mastiha and a photograph of the adopted tree complete with custom made sign board, emblazoned with the name of the purchaser’s choosing.
Adopters also have the option to visit their adopted tree and to experience some of the magical cycle of the mastiha cultivation.
The program is a great way to learn about the cultivation of the trees of Chios and an opportunity to be a part of helping to keep ancient Greek traditions alive for generations to come.
Find out more about adopting a Chios mastiha tree for yourself or as a gift:
Adopt a magical Chios mastiha tree by the sea
Read the article at Greek City Times.