The mastic or llentiscle, in Catalan, is one of the most common plants in our landscapes. Its intense green covers most of the Mediterranean transition forests where pines, holm oaks and oaks coexist. This noble shrub is still used today, in some rituals, both in the Jewish and Muslim traditions, sowing the Mediterranean basin with symbols and stories. The Egyptians already used it in their mummification rituals and the Phoenicians used its branches to cushion the loads of amphorae and jars on their trade routes. Undoubtedly, that gives us a possible explanation for the broad genetic map that the species has in the Mediterranean. In ancient Greece, its resin, mastic, was already used as a natural toothpaste and it is still distilled today to make Mastica, a very popular liqueur.
However, in our country, today, it is a great unknown.
Winter is when the mastic gives its best. Its fruits ripen in the coldest months. Its dense texture, its enormous nutritional value and its color, of an intense wine red, delights many birds. It is then that you can find a certainly disturbing scene:
You are walking quietly, and after hearing some agitation, you find a few piles of mastic bouquets piled up on the side of the road, as if suddenly abandoned there.
In the air you breathe a certain clandestinity of aborted action, and among the bushes you sense diffuse distressed presences. This scene was repeated year after year, in the weeks before Christmas, without me knowing why it was.
When I learned more about the thousand uses and properties of the mastic, I discovered that spontaneous groups of furtive collectors went to the forests, to take the youngest branches, which they later sell in France and northern Europe to make wreaths for the dead, and flower arrangements . ¡Plant traffickers in 20th century Europe!. Fascinating.
Like the Etruscans (because in fact, Moroccans are often the ones who do it) they continue to expand the genetic map of the species. Many people are bothered by this plant trafficking, without really knowing what it means, but from what I have seen, those who carry it out do it with the utmost respect, and they know very well what they are doing. Only the most insensitive and thoughtless beings would be capable of destroying and exhausting what feeds them. Which, on second thought, places us humans in a detestable place.
But going back to the mastic, I forgot what is most relevant to me. The smell of it. Pure forest. Intense, wild, green and penetrating. Few people dare to formulate with this plant. You have to be really brave. That is why it is one of our favorites and an essential note if what you want is to capture the soul of winter in a bottle.