Carob

Carob Chips

Carob Chips
© Denzil Green


Carob is promoted as a chocolate substitute.

The Carob tree is an evergreen tree with large, shiny leaves which grows up to 50 feet (45 metres) tall. The trees can live to be 100 years old.

The tree produces thick, long and broad pods that are from 6 to 12 inches long (15 to 30 cm.) The pods are green, turning dark brown when ready to be picked. Inside the pods, surrounded by a sweet, juicy pulp, are reddish-brown flat beans that look somewhat like watermelon seeds. There will be up to 15 beans per pod. (The beans are also referred to as seeds.)

Though the pod can be eaten raw, it isn't very often. The whole pod is used: the seeds are roasted and ground into a powder; the pods are used as animal feed. The Carob Powder is made first, then products such as syrup, bars and chips are made. It is also used to make Carob bean gum and used in food manufacturing as a thickener.

The substance in Carob that makes Carob reminiscent of chocolate to some people is "saccharine" (note, not the same as "saccharin", the sweetener.)

Carob, however, does not taste like chocolate. The biggest thing that Carob and cocoa have in common is that they are both brown. Carob looks like chocolate and can function like chocolate, but the taste is completely different. In fact, the longer you roast the beans to get the colour closer to cocoa, the blander the flavour. Carob's taste is not unpleasant: a wag might observe that what makes so many "health food" Carob bars taste awful is all the other healthy stuff that is used in them.

Chocolate lovers hate Carob: some will say you might as well be eating dirt. In the eyes of the new Food Moralists, however, Carob's main virtue is that it is not chocolate, chocolate having been tainted in their minds as being vaguely immoral.

There is no real commercial growing of Carob in North America, as the price that it would fetch is too low compared to what other crops will bring. North American producers of Carob products will instead import the beans from abroad.

In California, the tree is grown as an ornamental.

Cooking Tips

In substituting Carob powder for cocoa powder, the first step is to set expectations. It will not taste like chocolate. Period. The second thing to remember is that even in terms of itself, its flavour is not pronounced, so you need to use more Carob Powder than you would have used cocoa. Swap in 1 1/2 to 2 parts Carob Powder for every 1 part cocoa powder originally called for.


On the other hand, Carob is naturally sweeter than cocoa, so reduce sugar in the recipe when making the swap.

Nutrition

Good source of calcium, phosphorus, Vitamins A and D, and potassium.


Carob proponents brandish about the fact that carob has fewer calories than chocolate, and is almost fat free. This is all very well if you eat Carob Powder on its own by the spoonful out of a tin, but in practice carob is made into things such as carob bars. Carob, having almost no fat, requires added fat to be made into bars, candies and desserts. The fat normally used is palm or coconut oil, both of which are high in saturated fat. The fat in cocoa is almost all unsaturated fat, which is good for you. Consequently, the carob bar ends up being less healthy than a chocolate bar.

The primary health benefit of carob is as a substitute for those who are allergic to chocolate, but who want something that has the appearance of chocolate.

Animals can safely eat carob, unlike chocolate.

Nutrition Facts
Per 100 g (1 cup)
Amount
Calories
228
Fat
.7 g
Carbohydrate
92 g
Protein
4.7 g


Equivalents

1 cup = 100g = 3 1/2 oz

Storage Hints

Store in a sealed container in a cool place for up to 1 year.

History Notes

Carob is native to the Middle East. It has been cultivated since about 2000 BC. The Greeks grew it, both in Greece and in their Italian settlements.


Carob was brought to the New World by the Spanish.

Literature & Lore

The names St John's Bread and Locust Bean came about because of the "guess" that Carob pods were the food that were eaten by John the Baptist during his time in the wilderness, as mentioned in the New Testament:


"....and his food was locusts and wild honey." (καὶ ἐσθίων ἀκρίδας καὶ μέλι ἄγριον) (Matthew 3:4 & Mark 1:6 )

John was, many believe, influenced by the Essene sect, who ate dried locusts. Some modern people try to refute that the Essenes did, but the Damascus Rule 12.13-14, an Essene manuscript that is part of the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran near the Dead Sea, discusses eating actual locusts.

Modern-day Western apologists, coming from cultures in which consuming insects is next to anathema, write pages defending the theory that Carob beans, not actual locusts, were meant. The actual Greek word, "akris / akrides", though, used here, and in the Gospel according to Mark, means the insect called "locust."

The current thinking among many scholars now [1] is that John did indeed just plain eat locusts. After all, whatever modern Western feelings are about the matter, the plain truth is that in Judeao-Christian tradition, there is nothing wrong with eating them. In fact, the Bible even states outright that locusts are kosher to eat: "Even these of them ye may eat; the locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his kind." Leviticus 11:22.

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[1] . . . the widespread notion that the ἀ. were carob pods (St. John’s-bread; so TKCheyne, EncBibl s.v. ‘husks’) is supported neither by good linguistic evidence nor by probability (s. HastDB s.v. ‘husks’ and ‘locust’); s. also ἐγκρίς). -- Bauer-Danker lexicon, 39, s.v. ἀκρίς)

Language Notes

The Greeks called Carob "keration"; the Romans called it "carratus". Carob seeds, being small and consistent in size and weight, came to be used for measuring precious materials such as diamonds and gold.


Carob seeds were being used for measuring diamonds and gold even up until the end of the Renaissance, still being referred to as "carratus". This evolved into "carat" for diamonds, and "karat" for gold.

Carat is used to measure the weight of a diamond. The weight of a carat was standardized in 1913 at 200 mg, or .2 grams. Thus, 5 carats equals 1 gram.

Karat, on the other hand, which is used for gold, is not used to measure the weight of gold, but rather the purity of it. Pure gold is deemed to be 1000 / 1000, or 24 Karat. There is no higher number of Karat; 24 stands for 100% pure. To see how pure your gold is, you take the number of Karats that it is, and divide by 24. If it's 18 Karat gold, that's 18 / 24 = 75%. The remaining 25% will be an alloy.

Acknowlegements