Fresh Carob Bean
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Fresh Carob beans are long, flattened pods that mature from a bright green to a deep brown. The pods are oblong and range in length from 6 to 10 inches; some are twisted and others are curved. The thick pod encases soft brown pith and multiple small, very hard, brown seeds. The seeds are so hard, they can crack a tooth. Carob beans are naturally sweet and have a honeyed taste, similar to sweetened cocoa.
Fresh Carob beans are available year-round.
Fresh Carob beans are part of the Legume family and are the only members of the genus Ceratonia. The beans are used for a variety of things, such as a substitute for chocolate as well as a stabilizer in food products; it is even used to cure tobacco. The versatile bean, often referred to as a fruit, is also called Locust bean or St. John’s bread.
Carob beans are high in fiber and in protein as well as vitamins A and B. They contain four times the amount of potassium as bananas. Fresh Carob beans are lower in fat and higher in sugars than chocolate, have no caffeine and are non-toxic to animals.
The entirety of the Carob bean may be consumed; the outer pod can be eaten directly from the tree though the seeds must be expelled. The pod is typically dried, ground into a powder and used as a substitute for cocoa. The hard seeds can be roasted and used as a substitute for coffee. A starchy, gum-like substance is extracted from the seed and used as an emulsifier for smoothies and ice cream. Carob is used by the food industry in various forms, particularly in health foods as an alternative to chocolate.
Carob beans are believed to have been the original carat weight used to measure fine jewels and metals. The ancient Egyptians extracted a honey-like substance from the pods and used it to make syrups and preserve fruits. The name “St. John’s bread” comes from a passage in the Bible that refers John the Baptist out in the wilderness eating “locusts” which are believed to have been Carob beans. In the Mediterranean region today, Carob beans are used for tea, they are processed into a form of molasses and as an animal feed.
Ceratonia Siliqua, or Carob, is native to the Mediterranean region and has likely grown in the Middle East for over 4,000 years. It was introduced in the US in 1854 by Spanish missionaries. The first Carob seedlings were planted in California in the 1870s and afterwards 8,000 seedlings were planted across the Southern US as ornamental trees. Carob grows anywhere citrus is grown, both trees enjoying a warmer, mild climate.