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Carob Notes

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Carob Notes

EDENSOY Carob is made with genuine carob from the seedpods of Ceratonia siliqua, a shrub like evergreen belonging to the legume (Fabaceae) or pea family. Known as the carob tree, it is native to the Mediterranean areas of southeastern Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia. Since prehistoric times the towering carob tree, which can reach 50 feet, has thrived in this climatic area where winters are cool and mild, and summers are hot and arid. It is tolerant of adverse soil conditions and drought, requires no fertilization, and its growing environment is naturally resistant to pests, fungus, and other diseases. Like other members of the legume family, the carob tree takes in nitrogen and other nutrients from the soil through its deep roots and cycles it into its foliage and pods.

Carob pods are the source of carob powder, flour, chips, syrups, and extract, all popular as natural cocoa substitutes since the 1960s. The seeds yield carob bean gum also known as locust bean gum, which is used as a thickening agent, emulsifier and stabilizer in beverages, candy, desserts, ice cream, salad dressings, cheeses, jelly, baked goods and other products. Carob powder and syrup are valued for having a chocolate like flavor. Yet unlike chocolate, carob is free of caffeine, theobromine, and oxalic acid, and is seen as a healthy alternative for those who are sensitive to or wish to avoid chocolate. In some countries carob is used as a caffeine free coffee substitute. In fact even pets can enjoy stimulant free carob, and it is often used to make natural dog treats.

Containing 40 to 50 percent natural sugar by dry weight, carob pods were the most widely used source of sugar for centuries before sugarcane and sugar beets became popular. During the Spanish Civil War and World Wars I and II, thousands of people credit their survival to the nutritious carob pod.

Carob has been used for over 5000 years. Its name comes from the Arabic Kharrub or Kharoub, meaning pod or bean pod. It is believed that the fruit of the carob tree was used to feed Mohammed's armies. The Greek word for carob is keras, meaning horn, in reference to its arc shaped pods. It is also known as "St. John's Bread" and, according to the Bible, sustained St. John the Baptist in the wilderness (Mark 1:16). Another Biblical reference to carob is as the "locust bean" which tempted the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:16). The Hebrew word for carob is Charuv and the dried fruity pods are eaten on the Jewish Holiday, Tu Bishvat. The Romans called carob pods the Egyptian fig or date, and enjoyed the naturally sweet fruit when green and juicy. Ancient Egyptians used carob to make the resinous adhesive used in mummification, and both the pods and seeds have been found in Egyptian tombs. Today carob is still eaten in Egypt as a sweetmeat and to make sweet beverages, but the majority of the pods are used in animal feed.

The term "carat" is derived from the ancient practice of using a carob seed as a measurement of weight equal to one diamond or gemstone. This system of measurement was used from 500 B.C. up until the twentieth century. It is said that the seeds, being fairly uniform in size, weigh about 3 1/3 grains or a little over 200 milligrams, which is about the same weight as most small cut diamonds. Thus a diamond weighing the same as one carob bean was said to be one carat, two carob beans equals two carats, and so on. Researchers have proven that there may have been a few shady diamond merchants until the measuring system was standardized and fixed at 0.2 grams equaling one carat. Researchers in Switzerland discovered that carob seeds are not all the same weight, but that the people in the experiment "were able to identify the heaviest seed of a pair even when the difference in weight was very small, 1/100 of a gram." They concluded that merchants simply chose the seed they wanted to use as a standard measurement.

The carob tree begins producing about five pounds of pods six to eight years after planting, and continues bearing fruit for 80 to 100 years. By the time the tree is 12 years old it produces approximately 100 pounds of bean pods per year, while older trees produce up to 250 pounds. In September and October the trees blossom and then take a further 11 months to develop thick, flat, green pods. When mature the pods turn a glossy dark brown and become very hard. Carob trees are a 'cauliflory' species, meaning that the flowers and clusters of bean pods arise directly from old growth twigs, branches and the trunk of the female trees. The curved, leathery pods vary in length from 4 to 12 inches, each containing 4 to 15 reddish brown carob seeds (a.k.a. locust beans).

Carob pods must be harvested before the winter rainy season. Canvas sheets are spread on the ground around the trees to collect the fallen pods. Although mechanical harvesting has been utilized recently, the most common method of harvesting is by long hooked poles, which are used to grab and shake the branches. Pods that are hard to remove by shaking are simply knocked off the tree with the pole. The pods are sun dried for one to two days reducing moisture content to eight percent or less. After sun drying, the pods undergo a grinding process referred to as 'kibbling.' The pods are slowly hammer milled to separate the seed from the pulp or kibble. Continuous gentle drying, grinding and roasting of the pods, produces various grades of carob powder or flour. To produce carob syrup or extract, the coarsely ground pods are boiled in water, concentrating their natural sugars and flavor into a dark brown, molasses-like consistency.

Enjoy EDENSOY Carob and its unique delicious chocolate-like flavor just as you would any chocolate beverage. It is delicious both warm and chilled, and excellent as an ingredient in making desserts and baked goods.



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