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Carob
shopping: one variety
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per 1/4 Pound
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Ceratonia siliqua

carob

plant overview
carob, chocolate substitute

Carob is a small, drought-tolerant species of tree that thrives in the arid climates of Africa, Asia, and Southern Europe. The term “carob” refers to the fruit of the tree, which are flat, bean-like pods that harbor numerous tiny seeds. Also called Locust Pods and Sweet Pods, these fruits are used as a substitute for chocolate in sweets, baked goods and beverages.

Clicking "learn more" next to each variety will take you to individual product pages for details.
Carob
01.
A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information about carob

description
Carob is a flowering evergreen shrub or tree in the pea family, Fabaceae. Carob trees grow up to 15 meters (49 ft) tall. The crown is broad and semi-spherical, supported by a thick trunk with brown rough bark and sturdy branches. Leaves are 10 to 20 centimeters (3.9 to 7.9 in) long, alternate, pinnate, and may or may not have a terminal leaflet. It is frost-tolerant.

Most Carob trees are dioecious. The trees blossom in autumn. The flowers are small and numerous, spirally arranged along the inflorescence axis in catkin-like racemes borne on spurs from old wood and even on the trunk (cauliflory); they are pollinated by both wind and insects. Male flowers produce a characteristic odor, resembling semen.

The fruit is a pod that can be elongated, compressed, straight or curved, and thickened at the sutures. The pods take a full year to develop and ripen. The ripe pods eventually fall to the ground and are eaten by various mammals, thereby dispersing the seed.

common names & nomenclature
The word Carat, a unit of purity for gold alloys, was derived from the word carob, alluding to an ancient practice of weighing gold and gemstones against the seeds of the carob tree by people in the Middle East.

Ceratonia siliqua, the scientific name of the carob tree, derives from the Greek kerátiοn, "fruit of the carob" (from keras "horn"), and Latin siliqua "pod, carob". The dried pods taste like chocolate but are lower in sugar and lack the enzyme theobromine.

Also known as:
carob, carob tree, st. john’s bread, carob bean, algarroba, algarroba bean


02.
Where in the World
habitat and range for carob

Carob is native to the Mediterranean region including Southern Europe, Northern Africa, and the larger Mediterranean islands; to Western Asia into Iran; and to the Canary Islands and Macaronesia .

03.
Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting carob

climate
Carob does best in a Mediterranean-type climate with cool, not cold, winters, mild to warm springs, and warm to hot summers with little or no rain. Temperatures in carob-growing regions of Israel may reach 104º to 122º F (40º-50º C) in summer. Ideal annual precipitation is 30 in (75 cm), but widely spaced trees will thrive with only 6 to 15 in (15-37.5 cm) without irrigation in mild climates. The pods should not be exposed to rain or heavy dew after they have turned brown and developed a high sugar content. Wet pods ferment quickly.

soil
Carob trees prefer well drained loamy soil and are intolerant of being waterlogged, but the deep root systems can adapt to a wide variety of soil conditions and are fairly salt-tolerant.

growing
Fresh seeds germinate quickly and may be sown directly in the field. Dried, hard seeds need to be scarified or chipped and then soaked in water or dilute sulfuric or hydrochloric acid solutions until they swell. In Cyprus, seeds are planted in sand and kept wet for 6 weeks or more, periodically sifting out those that have swollen to 3 times normal size. Germination rate may be only 25%. The swollen seeds are traditionally planted in flats and when they produce the second set of leaves they are transferred to small pots. When 12 in (30 cm) tall, they are transplanted to large containers or nursery rows. A recently developed technique is to plant the seeds in 2 halves of clay drainpipes bound together or in plastic tubes packed in deep wooden boxes to accommodate the long taproot. In perhaps a year, the tubes are split and the seedlings are planted in the field in holes made with a post-hole digger. Budding is done when the stem is at least 3/8 in (1 cm) thick.

harvesting
The pods must be harvested before winter rains. They are shaken down by means of a long pole with a terminal hook to grasp the branches. Those that don't fall readily are knocked off with the pole. The pods are caught on canvas sheets laid on the ground. Then they are sun-dried for 1 or 2 days until the moisture content is reduced to 8% or below and then go through a kibbling process—crushing and grading into 4 categories: cubed, medium-kibbled, meal, and seed kernels.

preserving
Dried pod pieces should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from sunlight.

04.
The Rest of the Story
carob history, folklore, literature & more

Carob (Ceratonia siliqua) is an evergreen native to and cultivated throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East. Although the tree is shrub-like in appearance, this member of the legume family can reach a height of nearly 60 feet and have a trunk more than three feet in circumference. The branches of the carob tree sport oval-shaped evergreen leaves and clusters of delicate red flowers. But carob's most interesting feature is its seedpods. The unripe pods are bright green, soft and fleshy and look very much like a pea pod. Ripe pods (sans the seeds) taste sweet when chewed but—due to a high isobutyric acid content—release an aroma reminiscent of Limburger cheese when opened. When the pods are fully ripe and dried, the hard seeds inside detach from their "cells," which produces a rattle effect.

According to legend, carob bean pods were the “locusts” that sustained St. John the Baptist as he preached throughout the desert wilderness. For this reason, carob pods are commonly called St. John's Bread and, less often, locust bean. Of course, the preacher didn’t actually eat insects as suggested by the term locust, which was later ascribed to swarming grasshoppers.

Some scholars speculate that reference to the word may stem from two factors: the translation of kerátiοn, the Greek word for the genus name of the carob tree, the root of which means "horn"; and the simple fact that, like locusts, the tree is highly resistant to the harsh environmental conditions of its native climate. This means that carob likely represented a reliable food source during times of famine triggered by drought or war. In fact, this idea is expressed in the parable of the Prodigal Son, who, after squandering his father’s wealth, is tempted to consume the carob pods used as swine fodder because he is starving—spiritually as well as physically. Aside from the moral lesson gained from the story, feeding carob pods to agricultural animals eased the burden of the poor farmer—a boon during the social and political turmoil of the Biblical period. However, carob pods proved to be a life-saving food source to regional inhabitants of other eras, such as the residents of Malta during World War II.

The seeds of the tree were used by the ancient Romans as a weight comparison against pieces of gold. Over time, a standardized method of determining the purity of the metal was established based on the fact that a single gold coin called a solidus was the same weight as 24 kerátiοn, or carob seeds. Eventually, the term for this unit of measurement evolved into carat, and a label of 24-carat meant the object was 100% pure gold.

Carob was once the primary source of sugar until cane sugar became widely available. Today, it’s a substitute for chocolate, which contains an enzyme called theobromine that is highly toxic to dogs and some people.

for educational purposes only

This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

please be advised: 
you should always consult with your doctor
before making any changes to your diet!!
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