Carob is native to the eastern Mediterranean, probably the Middle East, where it has been in cultivation for at least 4000 years. The plant was well known to the ancient Greeks, who planted seeds of this plant in Greece and Italy.
This plant is also called St. John’s bread or locust bean because the pods were once thought to have been the “locusts” that were eaten by John the Baptist in the Wilderness.
That story was apparently wrong–he ate migratory locust. Seeds were used to weight gold, hence the word “carat.” Mohammed’s army ate kharoub, and Arabs planted the crop in northern Africa and Spain (Moors), along with citrus (Citrus) and olives ( Olea ).
Spaniards carried carob to Mexico and South America, and the British took carob to South Africa, India, and Australia.
Records show that carob was intentionally introduced into the United States in 1854, and the first seedlings were apparently planted in California in 1873. For commercial production cultivars with the finest quality fruits are bud grafted on common stock.
Carob grows well anywhere that citrus is grown, and it prefers dry climates that receive more than 30 centimeters of rainfall–ideal Mediterranean-type climates.
The fruit of carob is a pod, technically a legume 15 to 30 centimeters in length and fairly thick and broad.
Pods are borne on the old stems of the plant on short flower stalks. Interestingly, most carob trees are monoecious, with individual male and female flowers.
The dark-brown pods are not only edible, but also rich in sucrose (almost 40% plus other sugars) and protein (up to 8%).
Moreover, the pod has vitamin A, B vitamins, and several important minerals. They can be eaten directly by livestock, but we know carob mostly because the pods are ground into a flour that is a cocoa substitute.
Although this product has a slightly different taste than chocolate, it has only one-third the calories (total 1595 calories per pound), is virtually fat-free (chocolate is half fat), is rich in pectin, is no allergenic, has abundant protein, and has no oxalic acid, which interferes with absorption of calcium.
Consequently, carob flour is widely used in health foods for chocolate-like flavoring.
A very fine polysaccharide gum–mucilaginous, odorless, tasteless, and colorless–can also be obtained from the pod and is now used in many products.
There are also several putative medicinal uses of the plant, and singers formerly chewed the pod husks in the belief that this clears the throat and voice.
Most carobs used in this country come from the Mediterranean Region, especially Sicily, Cyprus, Malta, Spain, southern Sardinia, and Italy along the Adriatic Sea.
Carob can be produced in California, and was grown for a while in the Southland, but this has not been economically successful because the land is too valuable to devote to this crop.
Carob is a species that has a long history of use by humans. Other names commonly used for Carob are St John’s Bread and Locust. Legend has it that St John ate the pods of this species and hence the name.
Evidence of the use of Carob products by humans date back to ancient Greece and Egypt where the plant was used as a source of food.
The seeds from the Carob tree are extremely consistent in size and weight and are believed to have been the original gauge for the ‘carat’ used by jewelers.
The species itself is ancient having survived the last ice age and flourished throughout the Mediterranean region since. It is well adapted to harsh climates and poor soils. Throughout its natural range the species has been widely cultivated because of its reliability as a food and fuel resource even during times of drought.
Description: The carob tree is a slow growing; medium sized evergreen tree originating in the eastern Mediterranean. It is a member of the Legume (Pea) family and is the only member of the genus Ceratonia. It is a xerophilous scleophphyllous species well suited to dry infertile environments. The species is trioecious with male, female and hermaphrodite inflorescences and is often multi stemmed growing up to 15 meters in height. The production of fruit begins around the age of 15 and continues for the life of the plant. The leaves are broad, dark green and offering substantial shade. The pods are long and leathery often growing up to 300mm long.
Carob is a highly versatile and useful tree to humans as there are a wide range of products derived from its fruits and timber. Primarily, foods for both human and animal consumption are obtained from its seeds, pulp and seed pods. Every part of the fruit is able to be consumed. However food is not the only product supplied by this species.
Carob in Food
The fruits of the Carob tree can be eaten either green or after having been processed. The Inside the seed pod there is up to 15 seeds surrounded by a saccharine pulp. The seeds are separated from the pulp and used to make locust bean gum sometimes known as Ceratonia or Carob bean gum.
This product is used in the manufacture of food stuffs, especially confectionary. It is used as a stabilizer, emulsifier, and thickener or to prevent sugar crystallization. The other major food source derived from Carob is from the ground up pod itself, which forms a high protein powder that is an effective substitute for Cocoa powder.
Carob powder has a number of advantages over Cocoa powder and as such is often used to make what has come to be known as ‘healthy chocolate’.
Carob powder is free of the allergenic and addictive effects of caffeine and the bromine present in Cocoa. It also contains less fat and more sugar than Cocoa. Cocoa has around 23% fat and 5% sugar while Carob contains approximately 7% fat and 42-48% sugar. Carob powder is often used as a substitute for cocoa at rates of up to 50%.
Used in this manner Carob has become a popular chocolate substitute used in a huge variety of confectionery products and drinks as well as a general sweetener. Carob is also used to make flour, molasses, alcohol and a substitute for coffee and eggs.
Carob and Health
Apart from the health benefits obtained by substituting Carob for Cocoa and synthetic sweeteners in our diet, Carob also has excellent nutritional value. Along with up to 80% protein, it contains Magnesium, Calcium, Iron, Phosphorus, Potassium Manganese, Barium, Copper, Nickel and the vitamins A, B, B2, B3, and D. It also has medicinal uses including the treatment of coughs and diarrhea.
Health & wellness Facts: Carob
Carob chips are derived from a legume called a carob pod, which is naturally sweet because of its high sucrose content. For this reason, carob chips are often used as a substitute in recipes that call for chocolate chips and are a good alternative because they are lower in fat and calories. Carob chips also provide vitamin A, vitamin B, various essential minerals and a moderate amount of protein.
Function of Fiber
A serving of carob chips is equivalent to about two tablespoons. One serving contributes about 2 grams of dietary fiber. Carob has pectin, a type of soluble fiber that dissolves and breaks down in water to form a thick gel. Called pectin. In “The Fiber35 Diet,” author Brenda Watson says that this action prolongs stomach emptying time and may help regulate blood sugar levels. Pectin also plays a role in lowering total cholesterol, which can reduce your risk for heart disease.
Benefits of Vitamins
Carobs contribute vitamin A and B complex vitamins. Vitamin A is said to promote the health of eyes, skin, bones and teeth. The B-complex vitamins function by metabolizing carbohydrates, proteins and fats. According to “The Complete Food and Nutrition Guide,” these vitamins may also promote normal appetite and nerve function. B vitamins are water soluble and may be destroyed by heat.
Benefits of Minerals
Carob chips contain minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Two tablespoons of carob chips provide about 8 percent of your daily requirement of calcium. The growth and development of your bones and tissues relies on calcium and magnesium, and your cells require these two minerals for the proper transmittal of nerve impulses. Carob chips also provide traces of other minerals like iron, manganese, barium, copper and nickel.
Carob chips are often used as a healthier alternative to chocolate. Carob chips are considered non-allergenic because, unlike chocolate chips, they do not contain phenylethylamine, which triggers migraines or allergic reactions. Carob chips are also free of oxalic acid, which prevents the absorption of minerals such as calcium and zinc. Carob is also caffeine-free. According to the Reader’s Digest Association, an excess consumption of caffeine can cause infertility, bone loss and headaches from caffeine withdrawal if it is abruptly discontinued.
Carob pods are also used to treat or prevent diarrhea. According to the California Pacific Medical Center, the carob plant may be helpful in this regard because it has a “gummy” texture that binds together watery stools. Carob pods also contain tannins that have antibacterial properties. Tannins bind to toxins and other harmful substances to prevent the growth of bacteria
Carob is a tropical pod that contains a sweet, edible pulp and inedible seeds. After drying, the pulp is roasted and ground into a powder that resembles cocoa powder, but does not have the same flavor and texture of chocolate.Cocoa powder and chocolate also come from a tropical pod. The pods hold cacao beans that are processed to make cocoa powder and chocolate. Cocoa powder and chocolate contain compounds thought to reduce artery-clogging plaque and lower cancer risk. Although allergies to chocolate are rare, some people report adverse reactions such as migraine headaches.
One tablespoon of unsweetened carob powder has 25 calories, no fat, no saturated fat, no cholesterol, and 6 grams carbohydrate. By comparison, one tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder contains 12 calories, 1 gram of fat, no saturated fat, no cholesterol, and 3 grams of carbohydrate.
Ounce for ounce, then, a candy bar made with carob has about the same amount of fat and calories as a chocolate bar, although the taste and texture are different. However, unlike cocoa powder and chocolate, carob is caffeine-free. Carob also contains three times as much calcium as cocoa powder.
While unsweetened carob powder may be naturally sweeter than cocoa powder, carob is not as flavorful as chocolate. To substitute carob powder for cocoa powder, replace one part cocoa with 2-1/2 parts carob powder by weight. Carob chips can easily be substituted for chocolate chips in recipes.If you decide to include carob products in your meal plan, be sure to read the labels! You’ll want to know what was added to the carob product and what the calorie, fat, and carbohydrate counts of the product are.