I am so taken with wild chewing gums lately. These are obtained from the resin or pitch that exudes from injuries to certain plants, that one can pry off and chew into waxy perfection.
Chewing gum from tree resins is a tradition that spans the globe—from the mastic gums or chios tears of the Mediterranean region, made from the mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus); to the soft chicle of the Mayans from sapodilla (Manilkara zapote); to the once-popular spruce gum of the northeastern United States and Canada, made from black spruce (Picea mariana). When the wise men came bearing frankincense and myrrh for the infant Jesus, they were bringing resins—from trees in the genera Boswellia and Commiphora, respectively—which, in addition to incense and ceremonial use, are chewed like gum.
Ethnobotanical accounts from the West and Southwest name many different species of pines, spruce, fir, and mesquite whose pitch has been used for this purpose. These include the pinyon pines Pinus edulis and P. monophylla, ponderosa pine (P. ponderosa), lodgepole pine (P. contorta), Western white pine (P. monticola), gray pine (P. sabiniana), and sugar pine (P. lambertiana); white spruce (Picea glauca), Engelmann’s spruce (P. engelmannii), and Sitka spruce (P. sitchensis); grand fir (Abies grandis) and subalpine fir (A. lasiocarpa); and honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) and velvet mesquite (P. velutina).