Mastic - The Antibacterial Ingredient

Mastic sticks up the dessert plate

Mastic is a superhero of an ingredient.

The sticky sap, harvested from evergreen trees on the island of Chios, was originally used by ancient Greeks as gum and prized for a range of antibacterial and medicinal qualities. Now, chefs are taking advantage of the spicy, resin-y flavor in a slew of desserts.

At Sofra Bakery in Cambridge, Maura Kilpatrick's love of esoteric ingredients led her to add ground mastic to her shortbread dough; she pairs the cookie with a pistachio-white-chocolate filling.

Mastic- and-orchid-root-flavored ice cream takes center stage at Taxim in Chicago. Topped with sour-cherry syrup and pistachios, the dish is an upscale study in Mediterranean flavors. Also on the menu: fried loukoumádes–mastic-flavored dumplings–smothered in rose cream and finished with Vietnamese cinnamon.

Sophia Brittan takes the flavors of ancient Greece even further at Victory Garden in New York City. Mastic plays a rotating role on her roster of soft-serve ice cream flavors and makes a cameo on the breakfast menu in a milky, mastic-infused cup of coffee. Brittan says mastic coffee has a cult following of devotees, bound, no doubt, to its depth of flavor and highly touted health benefits.

If drinking it daily brands us as cultish, count us in.