The Carob Tree

The carob tree is a member of the legume (pea) family and it grows in Mediterranean areas. It favours arid conditions which are naturally alien to fungus and pests so little or no chemical sprays are needed in its cultivation. It is a large tree and grows to 15m in 50 years. It produces no fruit for the first 15 years of its life, but will fruit well into its old age. A large tree can produce one ton of beans in one harvest.

The carob tree flowers in September and October. The flowers on female carob trees must be pollinated by pollen from the male trees. Developing carob pods have the appearance of green broad beans but they turn a dark glossy brown with maturity. They are between 4"and 10"long and weigh 0.75 to 1.5 oz\. The pods contain four series of oval holes, each bearing a seed like a watermelon seed. Each pod can contain up to 15 seeds. Carob seeds and pods are edible. The ground seeds are used as a substitute for cocoa and as a food (also known as algarroba, St. John's bread, and locust bean gum). The pods are commonly used as cattle feed. Carob powder is also used as a food stabilizer and as a darkening agent.

Harvesting & Processing Carob

Carob pods are usually processed in their country of origin. They are both dry and wet cleaned and kibbled (coarsely ground) to separate the seeds from the pulp. The seeds are then processed to produce locust bean gum (ceratonia or carob bean gum). This is a natural product used as a gelling agent, stabilizer or emulsifier in ice-cream, dessert fruit filling and salads.

The gum may be mixed with tragacanth gums (E143) which exude from the trunk and branches of another species of the pea family. This is also used as a stabilizer, emulsifier, thickener, or to prevent sugar crystallisation in confectionery. An oil called algaroba is extracted from the carob seeds to be used for medicinal purposes. After seed extraction, the pods are roasted, milled and sieved and then stored in controlled conditions to prevent them becoming hard and lumpy. Carob powder is used in baking and food manufacture. It is naturally sweet so no added sugar varieties are available. Non-dairy carob bars use vegetable fat, soya flour and soya lecithin as an emulsifier.

History Of Carob

Carob is by no means a newly discovered food. The Greek Theophratus recorded in 4BC that his contemporaries called the carob the Egyptian fig. Ancient Egyptians used the gummy properties of carob seed by using it as an adhesive in binding mummies and the pods and seeds have been found in Egyptian tombs. The Romans are said to have eaten the pods when green and fresh for their natural sweetness.

Many scholars believe that John the Baptist lived on carob pods as"the locust bean"in another name for carob. Another biblical reference to carob pods is also probable in the parable of the prodigal son who squandered his inheritance and so became a servant, looking after the pigs."He would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate ..."- the pods would most probably have been the pods of the carob trees which would still produce crops in times of drought and famine.

Alternative To Chocolate

Carob has rightly been coined the healthy alternative to chocolate. As most of us are now aware, carob is free from the stimulants caffeine and theobromine found in chocolate. It is also naturally sweet, so carob products will generally contain substantially less sugar than their chocolate counterparts. Carob powder can be substituted for cocoa powder in any recipe. Carob is also available in bars, drops and in confectionery.

Advantages Of Carob Over Chocolate

Carob is free from caffeine and theobromine which can be addictive and can cause allergies. Caffeine and theobromine are stimulants. Caffeine is the most active and works directly on the brain stimulating the senses, inspiration and alertness. It can be transmitted through breast milk and pregnant women are advised to restrict their caffeine intake. Caffeine has analgesic properties but also has side effects such as anxiety, nervousness, nausea, and palpitations. Caffeine not only stimulates the brain and other organs but also increases the heart rate. It can provoke emotional reactions. It stimulates the gastric juices and acts as a diuretic and so can cause excess loss of the water soluble vitamins B & C. Caffeine stimulates release of the bodys stored energy reserves, meaning that sugars are released into the blood. This can increase the risk of diabetes and possibly obesity and can cause mood swings.

How Much Should Be Eaten?

Commonly, 15 grams of carob powder is mixed with applesauce for children. Adults should take at least 20 grams a day. The powder can be mixed in applesauce or with sweet potatoes. Carob should be taken with plenty of water. Please note that infant diarrhea must be monitored by a health care professional and that proper hydration with a high electrolyte fluid is critical during acute diarrhea. Carob is free from phenylethylamine which can trigger migraines. It is free fromamine which can trigger migraines and allergic reactions.

Carob Is A Healthy Alternative To Chocolate That Is Vegan Friendly

Many consumers are likely unfamiliar with the carob, but this sweet, almost candy-like food is more commonplace than you might think. According to chocolate purists, carob holds no candle to chocolate, but it is nonetheless often used in its place, due to a subtle flavor reminiscent of chocolate. Many never know the difference.

Carob is the pulp harvested from the pods of the tropical carob tree. The pulp is edible directly off the tree, but for retail use, it is often roasted and then ground into a carob powder, and then used extensively to flavor a variety of goods, the majority being candy and some baked goods.

Carob is also healthier than chocolate, and so can often be found in health food stores and supermarkets that sell a large selection of healthy goods. Carob can be purchased in both a fresh or dried form, in bars or in pieces, and is often packaged as a snack. It also makes an appearance in many varieties of trail mix and acts as a nice sweetener to health bars and other nutritious snack products. You can also purchase carob chips for use in baking.

Chances are you've eaten carob or snacks and other foods containing carob several times, perhaps hundreds, in your lifetime, as it is also used to sweeten icing, cakes and cookies, and other candy which uses carob rather than chocolate in an effort to provide healthier alternatives to sugary, fattening candy.

Nutritional Information:
Carob Is About 8% Protein Carob Is High In Vitamin A Carob Is High In Vitamin B-1 Carob Is High In Vitamin B-2
Carob Is High In Vitamin B-3 Carob Is High In Vitamin D Carob Is High In Calcium Carob Is High In Phosphorus
Carob Is High In Potassium Carob Is High In Magnesium Carob Contains Iron Carob Contains Manganese
Carob Contains Barium Carob Contains Copper Carob Contains Nickel

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