Facts about carob

We found 20 facts about carob

Ceratonia siliqua - a substitute for cocoa

It is an evergreen tree with dark green, leathery leaves and distinctive fruits in the form of long, brown pods. Carob fruits are edible and are used in the food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. 

It is found in Mediterranean climates and the Middle East. In biblical times it was considered the food of the poor, today it is an excellent substitute for cocoa, full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

This tree is native to the Mediterranean and the Middle East. In these areas, especially in the eastern regions of the Mediterranean, it grows wild, while in the western areas it has integrated into the ecosystem there (naturalization).

The Carob is a typical tree of the Algavre region of southern Portugal, where it is called alfarrobeira and the fruit is alfarroba. These trees also grow in Spain (Andalusia, Murcia, Valencia), Malta, Sicily, Sardinia, southern Croatia, eastern Bulgaria, southern Greece, where they are known as "wooden horns", and in Crete, Samos and Cyprus. They also grow in Israel, where they are called charuv, in Turkey they are known as keçiboynuzu, which means "goat's horn".

Carob is an evergreen tree. It is a species of tree belonging to the legume, pea or bean family (Fabaceae).

This family contains 766 genera and about 19600 species. Legumes growing in the tropics are often found in woody form, while in temperate climates they are mainly herbaceous.

Its crown has a semi-circular, broad habit, supported by a thick trunk with rough, cracked brown bark and strong branches. The tree is frost hardy to about -7°C.

The leaves are 10 to 20 centimeters long, leathery, stiff to the touch, glossy, dark green. They fall every other year in July and are only partially renewed the following spring.

Carob fruits are large pods with a leathery covering, up to 20 centimeters long and 2 centimeters wide. The pod is elongated, straight or curved, and has thickened sutures. It contains soft, brownish flesh with a large number of brown seeds.

The pods develop and ripen throughout the year. When they ripen and fall to the ground, they are eaten by various mammals, including pigs, which scatter carob seeds in their droppings.

It can survive long periods of drought (xerophyte). It is an adaptation to Mediterranean conditions (250 to 500 mm of annual rainfall). However, it needs 500 to 550 mm of annual rainfall to bear fruit. 

These trees prefer well drained sandy loams and do not tolerate wetlands, although the deep root system can adapt to different conditions.

It tolerates up to 3% salt concentration in the soil.

Experiments have been conducted in which young carob trees were able to perform basic physiological functions under high salinity conditions of 40 mmol NaCl/l.

Carob is one of the oldest food plants, known and used by humans for more than 4,000 years.

Carob pods consist of pulp, which makes up 90% of the weight, and seeds, which make up 10%. They have a slightly sweet taste because they contain about 1/3 to 1/2 of the sugar in the dry matter.

Until the spread of sugar cane and sugar beets, carob was the only source of sugar for people in the region where these trees grew.

There is no evidence that carob naturally utilizes atmospheric nitrogen.

It has been suggested that these trees, like all legumes, may form a symbiotic relationship with Rhizobium to utilize nitrogen from the atmosphere. Ongoing studies have not conclusively proven this. Some have found no root nodules, while others have found nodules containing Rhizobium bacteria. However, isotopic testing of the carob tree's tissues has not confirmed its natural use of atmospheric nitrogen.

The taste of carob is similar to sweetened cocoa, so it is used as a substitute for cocoa, with a very low fat content and no caffeine.

The roasted and ground pods are used to make carob flour, which is used in the production of sweets and cakes as a healthy, allergen-free substitute for chocolate.

Carob pulp contains many valuable ingredients.

It contains natural plant proteins and carbohydrates as well as vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B6, C, E, D and A. It also has calcium in its composition, as well as phosphorus, iron, sodium, potassium, zinc and magnesium. It is also rich in powerful antioxidants, especially gallic acid, which has anti-cancer effects. Due to the presence of many valuable nutrients, carob is a must in the diet of athletes. Carob flour does not contain theobromine, which is very harmful to some animals - cats, dogs and horses.

It is a healthy substitute for sweets, and thanks to its high calcium content, it strengthens bones and joints, preventing osteoporosis.

It lowers cholesterol and regulates digestive processes (reduces gastric acidity). It is ideal as an addition to cakes, sweet desserts, yogurts. It goes well with coffee and milk and  it is safe for allergy sufferers. 

The seeds of the carob tree produce a flour used in the food industry as a thickener, called E410.

 It is also used as a stabilizer to replace fat in low-calorie products or as a gluten substitute. To produce 1 kilogram of flour, it takes 3 kilograms of seeds, which must come from about 30 kilograms of fruit (pods). Seeds are extremely hard, glossy brown seeds are 8 to 10 mm long, 7 to 8 mm wide and 3 to 5 mm thick.

Carob meal is produced from the endosperm, which makes up 42-46% of the seed.

The endosperm is rich in galactomannans (polysaccharides), which make up 88% of its dry weight. Galactomannans are hydrophilic and swell in water. If mixed with other gelling agents, such as carrageenan (carrageenins, polysaccharides derived from red edible seaweed), they can be used to thicken the liquid portion of food.

This is widely used in animal food to achieve a gelatinous texture.

Carob is used to make chocolate-like treats for dogs.

Since it does not contain theobromine or caffeine, it is safe for dogs.

Carob is also used as a high energy feed for livestock, especially ruminants.

In the past, carob pods were mainly used as animal feed in the Maltese Islands. However, in times of famine or war, they were part of the diet of many Maltese.

Carob pods were also fed to donkeys on the Iberian Peninsula in the past.

In many Mediterranean countries, carob pods are used to make syrup - kaftan.

It is used as an additive for making alcoholic beverages, compotes, liqueurs.

The carob tree is widely grown in nurseries as an ornamental plant.

It is commonly used in gardens in Mediterranean regions, but also in other regions of the world. The tree is especially popular in California and Hawaii.

Carob wood is also used.

In some regions of Greece, such as Crete, it is used as firewood. It is also used to make fences, parquet, doors, and because of its hardness and resistance to breakage, it can be used to make tool handles and walking sticks.

It is also used to make slow burning charcoal.

The world production volume of carob fruit was 51,907 tons in 2021. The largest producers are: Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon.

Smaller quantities were produced in Algeria, Tunisia and Israel. The main consumers are the food industry (baby food, ice cream, sauces, cheese, diabetic products, soft drinks), cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, and more recently manufacturers of organic and natural products.

What do carob and diamonds have in common? You may be surprised.

Because carob seeds have a constant average weight of about 200 milligrams, they were used in ancient times as a unit of weight for diamonds. The unit was called the carat - derived from the Greek word keration, meaning carob.

The carob tree is mentioned in the Bible.

It is mentioned in the Gospel of St. Matthew in the parable of the prodigal son who was forced to eat food intended for pigs. It turns out that in biblical times, carob was not considered a valuable food for humans, but for pigs. It could only be eaten by very poor people; it was the bread of the poor.

Another biblical passage mentions John the Baptist who, while in the wilderness, ate locusts. This is possible because locusts were eaten by the people of that time (only certain types of locusts and only the abdomen) and this was not part of the public debate. Since locusts appeared only periodically in swarms in the desert regions of the Holy Land, it is believed that John the Baptist ate carob.

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