The Carob

From ceratonia to carob tree

In ancient Greece the tree that produced carobs was known as ceratonia (Ceratonia siliqua).
Its seed was used as a weight measure (189 mg) for gems and gold because seeds are very even in weight. That use has come down through the centuries as “the caret weight”.

What is the tree like?

It is an evergreen, wild or cultivated tree native to the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea and to the Middle East growing up to an altitude of 750 m. In Greece carob trees can be found growing in the islands and especially in Crete.It is precious for its edible pods and as an ornamental tree; this forest tree also plays an important role in sustainable agriculture and has uses in pharmaceutical, food and cosmetic industries. Both the tree and the pods have various uses. Moreover, the roots reduce the rate of erosion by protecting the soil.

A few words about its flowers

Its flowers bloom in September and October and are collected immediately because they have therapeutic properties.

What about its leaves?

The leaves are long and pinnate, dark green and shiny on the upper surface while pale green on the lower surface. They are collected in early autumn. The leaves can be used in tanning and dyeing.

And the pods?

The pods are long and leathery and are collected when brown.
They have a pleasant, sweet taste and contain hard, brown seeds. They contain soluble sugars, proteins, polyphenols and tannins, which are antioxidants.

According to research by the University of Cyprus, it is a fire-resistant tree, a source of nectar for bees and is suitable for reforestation. It protects the flora and promotes biodiversity.

The wood of the carob tree is hard and heavy, of reddish colour. It is used for fire wood, furniture making and woodcarving.
The carob tree is widely cultivated for its edible pods, the carobs. Locust bean gum (Ε 410) is an additive derived from the seeds of the carob tree; carob seed flour contains 60% protein, has no sugar or starch and can be used in cooking.
Carobs contains micro-elements, vitamins and protein, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, potassium,and silicon. It is used in the production of syrup, soft drinks, jam and liquors. It is also used to stabilize ice-cream, sweets and infant milk powder.
Carobs are grinded into carob flour, flour with a sweet taste and flavor which is used to produce bread, biscuits, cakes and carob rusk breads. It is a natural substitute for cocoa or chocolate. It can be used instead of sugar in bread and pastry products.
Carob honey is produced by carob extract so as not to alter its properties and its taste which is often compared to chocolate, although it is healthier because it contains 52 times less fat, it is allergy and caffeine free and contains natural sugars. Carob honey is a rich source of carbohydrates, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium and is very low in sodium.