Carob is a legume that comes from the carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua), an evergreen tree native to the Mediterranean (it is actually a shrub that is trained into tree form by pruning). Today it is also grown in other warm climates including Florida and the southwestern United States. The tree is drought tolerant, does well in direct sun, and can handle temperatures down to 18 degrees F. It has a broad, spreading form that makes it an ideal shade tree and can grow to a height of 50 feet. The leaves are dark green, glossy, and leathery. The tree bears fruit (carob pods) after six to eight years of growth, and can easily bear 100 pounds of pods per year by its twelfth year, increasing to an average of 200 to 250 pounds annually as the tree grows older. It can continue to bear fruit for 100 years. The pods are reddish-brown and can be up to a foot long.
Carob has been used for food for over 5000 years and continues to play an important role in Jewish tradition. It is also called “honey locust” or St. John’s Bread as this was consumed by John the Baptist while he was in the wilderness (Matt. 3:4). The husks that were eaten by the Prodigal Son in Jesus’ parable (Luke 15:16) were discarded carob pods. Even today carob continues to be an important feed for livestock. The word carat, which is still used today to measure gold and diamonds, comes from the Arabic name for the carob seeds because of their uniformity in weight.
After harvesting, the long bean-like pods from the carob tree are cooked for a short time or roasted and then ground into carob powder (roasting enhances its chocolate-like flavor). Carob can be used to make such items as cakes, cookies, candy, pudding, icing, bread, beverages, shakes, ice cream, muffins, fudge, and brownies. Carob is naturally sweet and requires much less sweetener when used in recipes. When replacing chocolate with carob in a recipe, use 3 tablespoons of carob powder plus 1 tablespoon of water for every ounce of unsweetened chocolate called for. When substituting cocoa powder, use an equal amount of carob powder. Remember to reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe because of the natural sweetness of carob.
In addition to not having the negative effects of chocolate, carob is very nutritious. Carob contains as much Vitamin B1 as asparagus or strawberries; as much niacin as lima beans, lentils, or peas; and more Vitamin A than eggplant, asparagus, and beets. It also contains Vitamin B2, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and the trace minerals iron, manganese, chromium, copper, and nickel. It contains approximately 8 percent protein and is a good source of fiber. Compared to chocolate, carob is three times richer in calcium, has one third less calories and seventeen times less fat.
Carob also has therapeutic uses. It is known to halt serious cases of diarrhea in adults, infants, and animals. Use 1 tablespoon of carob power in a cup of liquid, or make a paste of carob powder and water. It is also known to help with nausea, vomiting, and upset stomach. One French physician successfully reversed kidney failure with carob. Use approximately 2 teaspoons carob powder in unsweetened cranberry juice four or five times daily. A decoction of the leaves and bark has been useful for syphilis and venereal diseases, and seems to have a soothing effect on epilepsy.
Carob is a chocolate lovers delight as it is not only delicious, but low in fat and calories, caffeine-free, and lacks the health risks of chocolate. Please give carob a try. Different carob products taste differently, as some taste more chocolate-like than others. Therefore, try out several different carob products, and congratulate yourself on treating yourself to a healthy and delicious treat.
If you would like to get great tasting carob or to find out more about this wonderful food, or if you would like to know more about building a solid foundation for health, please contact us.
Some additional information about carob:
1 ounce of carob powder has about 100 calories, which is about
1/4 cup in measure. This amount has about 10 grams of fiber and
.18 grams (virtually none) of fat. It also contains B vitamins, magnesium, iron, manganese, chromium, and copper. It takes 2 medium/large dry carob pods to make 1 ounce in weight.
NUTRITIONAL AND MEDICINAL INFORMATION
Carob per 100g portions:
protein 3.8 grams
fat 0.2 grams
carbohydrates 90.6 grams
calcium 290 mg
phosphorus 81 mg
sodium 10 mg
potassium 800 mg
Powder Cocoa per 100g portions:
protein 16.8 grams
fat 23.7 grams
carbohydrates 45.4 grams
calcium 133 mg
phosphorus 648 mg
sodium 717 mg
potassium 651 mg
Chart from Food and Nutrition Encyclopedia Vol. 1
CAROB vs CHOCOLATE
Carob, a delicious, healthy food choice, is processed by drying, roasting, and grinding. Chocolate is processed with harsh alkalis and contains theobromine, both toxic to the liver. Chocolate is so bitter it is inedible without being heavily sweetened, while carob is 50% natural sugar. Chocolate has a heavy flavour, while carob is delicate. Carob is very low in fat (see table under nutrition) while cocoa is high in fat. Carob is free of caffeine and oxalic acids. When oxalic acid is used with calcium, as in chocolate milk, the calcium is rendered unusable.
Carob and cocoa contain tannin. Use both in moderation in children’s diets especially, as tannic acid reduces the absorption of protein through the intestinal wall.
Suggestions for Substitutions:
• use 1 1/2–2 parts by weight of carob for cocoa in beverages unless spices are used to enhance flavour.
• bland-flavoured carob goes well with cinnamon and peppermint.
• reduce the amount of sweetener when substituting carob for cocoa.
There are many foods available, particularly in whole food stores, that use carob. Try some of the carob flavoured drinks, such as Carob Rice Dream (milk and chocolate free!), carob confections such as granola bars, energy bars, carob bars (the carob nut mint cluster is my favourite!), puddings, pie fillings, teas, and especially the frozen carob treats made with Rice Dream Ice Cream—yummy! Read the ingredient list carefully and choose snacks that have food as a first ingredient, such as seeds, nuts, grains, dried fruit, etc., and beware of added sweeteners, sugar and it’s many aliases. Best choices would be without sweeteners.
MEDICINAL AND NUTRITIONAL
Brewed teas of roasted carob powder are effective and without side effects in the treatment of acute-onset diarrhea according to Murray and Pizzorno in the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. The beneficial effects are attributed to the high fiber content of carob and the polyphenol compounds. A study involving infants with acute diarrhea showed carob powder was particularly helpful with normalizations in defecation, body temperature, weight, and cessation of vomiting, with no side effects. (Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine p.435).
Carob contains 50% natural sugars, some protein, lots of fiber, less fat and calories than chocolate, and significant quantities of vitamin B, vitamin A, and minerals. It is an excellent source of calcium (see table pg. 8), having 3 times more calcium than milk!
It was very difficult to choose just four of my favourite recipes! There are many available for carob ice cream using your blender — try some. For yummy Carob Chip Muffins, see Volume 4 Issue 5 of WHOLifE, January/February 1999.
Peanut Butter Squares**
Try this great frozen dessert!
1/4 cup liquid honey
12 oz. soft tofu
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
Blend all of the above and spread a flat layer in an 8” x 8” pan.
1/3 cup liquid honey
1/4 cup carob powder
2 tsp. vanilla
Stir together and pour on top of first layer. Marbilize the layers with a knife. Freeze and enjoy.
2 cups water
1/2 cup honey
6 tbsp. carob powder (sifted)
(1 tbsp. arrowroot powder – optional, you could use flax or psyllium if you’d like to use a thickener) -D’s note
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
Combine the water with the honey and stir until creamy. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, dissolve the carob powder, arrowroot powder and salt in a few tsp. of water; add to the syrup until thickened. Add vanilla. Refrigerate in a covered glass jar. Makes 1 1/2 cups.