Mahlab or mahlepi is an aromatic spice
A spice is a dried seed, fruit, root, bark, or vegetative substance used in nutritionally insignificant quantities as a food additive for flavor, color, or as a preservative that kills harmful bacteria or prevents their growth. It may be used to flavour a dish or to hide other flavours...

 made from the seed
A seed is a small embryonic plant enclosed in a covering called the seed coat, usually with some stored food. It is the product of the ripened ovule of gymnosperm and angiosperm plants which occurs after fertilization and some growth within the mother plant...

s of the St Lucie Cherry (Prunus mahaleb
Prunus mahaleb
Prunus mahaleb is a species of cherry native to central and southern Europe, western and central Asia, and northwest Africa, from Morocco north to France, southern Belgium, and Germany, and east to northern Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan.It is a deciduous tree or large...

). The cherry stones are cracked to extract the seed kernel, which is about 5 mm diameter, soft and chewy on extraction, but ground to a powder before use. The flavour is similar to a combination of bitter almond and cherry
The cherry is the fruit of many plants of the genus Prunus, and is a fleshy stone fruit. The cherry fruits of commerce are usually obtained from a limited number of species, including especially cultivars of the wild cherry, Prunus avium....


It has been used for centuries in the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 and the surrounding areas as a flavoring for baked goods. In Greek American
Greek American
Greek Americans are Americans of Greek descent also described as Hellenic descent. According to the 2007 U.S. Census Bureau estimation, there were 1,380,088 people of Greek ancestry in the United States, while the State Department mentions that around 3,000,000 Americans claim to be of Greek descent...

 cooking, it is the characteristic flavoring of Christmas cake and pastry recipes. Thanks to renewed interest in Mediterranean cooking
Cuisine of the Mediterranean
Mediterranean cuisine is the food from the cultures adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea.Whether this is a useful category is disputed:The idea of the ‘standard Mediterranean’ .....

 it has been recently mentioned in several cookbooks.

In Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 it is called μαχλέπι (mahlepi) and is used in egg-rich yeast cakes and cookies such as Christmas vasilopita
Vasilopita is a New Year's Day bread or cake in Greece and many other areas in eastern Europe and the Balkans which contains a hidden coin or trinket which gives good luck to the receiver...

 and Easter tsoureki
Tsoureki , çörek , panarët , choreg , or çörək is a sweet bread in the cuisines of the Balkans, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. It is formed of braided strands of dough...

. In Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

 it is called μέχλεπι (mehlepi) and is used in a special Easter
Easter is the central feast in the Christian liturgical year. According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Day or Easter Sunday...

 cheese pie or cheese cake called φλαούνες (flaounes
Flaouna or flaounes in the plural Flaouna or flaounes in the plural Flaouna or flaounes in the plural (φλαούνα and φλαούνες respectively in Greek is a special Easter food eaten on the island of Cyprus by the mainly Orthodox Greeks.-History:...

). In Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 it is used for pogača
Pogačice is a type of puff pastry. Pogača, Poğaça, Pogácsa or Pogacha is a type of pastry eaten in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovenia, Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Hungary, Greece and Turkey with variations...

. In the Middle East and Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

 it is used in Ramadan
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which lasts 29 or 30 days. It is the Islamic month of fasting, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex during daylight hours and is intended to teach Muslims about patience, spirituality, humility and...

 sweets including çörek
Tsoureki , çörek , panarët , choreg , or çörək is a sweet bread in the cuisines of the Balkans, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. It is formed of braided strands of dough...

, kandil simidi, ka'kat and ma'amoul
Ma'amoul are small shortbread pastries filled with dates, pistachios or walnuts . They are popular in Levantine cuisine and in the Gulf countries. They may be in the shape of balls or of domed or flattened cookies...

. In Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 powdered mahlab is made into a paste with honey
Honey is a sweet food made by bees using nectar from flowers. The variety produced by honey bees is the one most commonly referred to and is the type of honey collected by beekeepers and consumed by humans...

, sesame
Sesame is a flowering plant in the genus Sesamum. Numerous wild relatives occur in Africa and a smaller number in India. It is widely naturalized in tropical regions around the world and is cultivated for its edible seeds, which grow in pods....

 and nuts, eaten as a dessert
In cultures around the world, dessert is a course that typically comes at the end of a meal, usually consisting of sweet food. The word comes from the French language as dessert and this from Old French desservir, "to clear the table" and "to serve." Common Western desserts include cakes, biscuits,...

 or a snack with bread
Bread is a staple food prepared by cooking a dough of flour and water and often additional ingredients. Doughs are usually baked, but in some cuisines breads are steamed , fried , or baked on an unoiled frying pan . It may be leavened or unleavened...

. In Armenia it is used to flavour the traditional Easter bread, cheoreg.

There are many alternative spellings of this spice: محلب, مَحْلَب, mahlab, mahalab, mahleb, מהלב, mahaleb, mahlep, mahalep, μαχλέπι, μέχλεπι, mahlepi, machlepi or makhlepi. The final 'b' of the original Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 word becomes 'p' in Turkish
Turkish language
Turkish is a language spoken as a native language by over 83 million people worldwide, making it the most commonly spoken of the Turkic languages. Its speakers are located predominantly in Turkey and Northern Cyprus with smaller groups in Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo,...

 due to the phonologically regular unvoicing of the final 'b'.
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