The mysterious healing plant that only grows on Greece’s Chios island

(CNN) — Known as the “painted village,” Pyrgi is undoubtedly one of the most photogenic places in the world.Located on Chios, the fifth largest of Greece’s islands, it’s made up of houses adorned with geometric engravings that use a technique called sgraffito.The process, most likely imported by the Genoese who ruled in the Middle Ages, begins with three coatings of white paint, black volcanic sand from the nearby beach of Mavra Volia and a lime finish.Builders then scratch through the layers and produce complex patterns.While this labor-intensive process is very expensive, it’s a matter of pride for villagers.Besides, money is no object. Pyrgi has proved to be one of the wealthiest villages in the Mediterranean over the ages.For centuries, the local economy has been strengthened by the cultivation of lentisc trees that produce the aromatic “mastiha” resin.The history of mastiha, often translated as “mastic,” is beautifully illustrated in a museum situated outside Pyrgi, which offers striking views of the surrounding hills covered in Spanish broom and those mysterious lentisc trees.

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Highly-prized resin

The natural resin is obtained through the cultivation of lentisc trees that produce “mastiha”.John MalathronasThe English word “masticate” comes from the Latin adaptation of the Greek word “to chew,” which is mastichein.Back when there was no dental hygiene, the wealthy chewed mastiha to freshen their mouths and/or protect themselves against plaque.As a result, it was very highly prized.Nikos Zervoudis, a farmer from Pyrgi, demonstrates the back-breaking cultivation process in a copse of lentisc trees outside the museum.”During the winter, the tree needs fertilizing and pruning to a round shape so that the resin can be collected properly,” he tells CNN Travel.”But in the spring it needs a special kind of cleaning.”