Carob is a flowering evergreen tree, cultivated for its edible pods that can be eaten ripe, dried, and sometimes toasted and the pods are often ground into a powder and used as a replacement for cocoa. The carob tree is native to the arid climates of Africa, Asia and Southern Europe and has been known to be used during times of famine caused by drought or war. The fruit pods of the carob tree are also known by the names St. John’s bread or locust bean because these pods were once considered by biblical scholars to have been the “locusts” that were eaten by John the Baptist in the wilderness.
Carob is rich in nutrients and antioxidants and also contains numerous health benefits, including lowering cholesterol. It is also a safe alternative for diabetics because of its low glycemic index, high fiber content and its ability to improve intestinal health. Unlike chocolate, carob contains neither caffeine nor theobromine, which is a neurotoxin.
Traditionally, carob was used as a remedy for intestinal problems and it also has numerous anti-oxidants that can help repair damaged cells. The carob pods can be eaten fresh and raw, directly off the tree and are chewy sweet. The pods can also be dried to make a powder and this powder is commonly substituted for cocoa powder.
While the fruit of the carob tree is an excellent source of nutrition, and a delicious substitute for cocoa powder, the actual carob tree also provides a hard wood used for fires and wood turners, it provides shade and shelter for livestock, and it is also a nitrogen fixing species which improves soil fertility.
Article by Andrea Nison