What is carob and where does it come from?

What is carob and where does it come from?

If you are vegan, chances are, you already stumbled upon carob as a chocolate alternative. But how well are you familiar with that superfood? Do you know what is carob and where does it come from?

In this article I will take you on a journey where you will learn all there is to learn about carob.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Carob tree belongs to the pea family and is also known under the name locust bean or St. John’s bread. The original home of carob is in the eastern Mediterranean region.

The dried, mature pods may be processed into a powder with a flavor somewhat reminiscent of cocoa; carob powder, chips, and syrups are frequently used in healthy food items to replace chocolate.

The tree is roughly 50 feet tall and has wide, pinnately complex, lustrous, evergreen leaves that resemble feathers. Leathery pods grow 3–12 inches long and include five to fifteen firm, brown seeds inside a delicious, edible pulp.

Carob tree
Carob tree

It has been grown in the Mediterranean and other regions of the world with comparable conditions since the late 1800s under the names locust bean and St. John’s bread. The tree produces six to twelve-inch long dark, fibrous pods with uneatable greenish seeds that become brown as they grow.

Humans eat uncooked, mature pods as sweetmeat, but because of their high sugar content, they are more frequently utilized as animal feed.

Processed seeds create a gum that is employed in the food industry as a thickener, food stabilizer, and emulsifying ingredient for ice cream, salad dressings, and other goods. There is an interesting paper if you want to know more about Re‐evaluation of locust bean gum (E 410) as a food additive at National Library of Medicine.

The edible pulp from within the carob pod is dried, roasted, and ground to create a dark powder that may be used as a replacement for chocolate in baked products or drinks. Carob powder is somewhat more costly than cocoa powder and may not require any further preparation based on the recipe.

What does carob look like?

The carob tree may reach a height of 50 ft. The substantial trunk, which has tough, brown bark and strong branches, supports the broad, semi-spherical top. Its leaves are parallel, pinnate, and 4 to 8 inches long. They may or may not contain a distal leaflet. It can withstand cold up to around 19 °F.

Because the majority of carob trees are self-pollinating and some are hermaphrodites, only male carob trees do not bear fruit. When the trees bloom in the fall, the flowers are tiny and abundant, pinnately along the flowering axis in panicles that resemble catkins and are even carried on the trunk (cauliflory).

Both the air and bugs pollinate the flowers.

The fruit from carob tree is a legume that is compacted, long, linear, or twisted, and swollen at the ridges. It is also frequently, but less appropriately, referred to as a pod. The pods mature and ripen over a whole year. The hard inner seed is dispersed in the excrement when the delicious, ripe pods ultimately fall to the ground and are eaten by numerous species, including pigs.

What does raw carob taste like?

Although carob may make you think of cocoa and chocolate, it has a taste of its own. Carob typically has a roasted flavor that makes it taste quite similar to cocoa, but it is less bitter.

It doesn’t have as strong of a flavor as chocolate, and it has a lot less fat. It has extremely lovely earthy flavors with a subtle sweetness. The flavor is mostly similar to a rich caramel.

Although carob is naturally somewhat sweet, less sugar is needed to make carob chips. Though not as sweet as chocolate chips, they are nevertheless delectable.

Carob is sweeter and less intense than chocolate, although tastes similar. It is added to beverages, desserts, and other foods rather than being consumed alone.

As I already mentioned, the flavor of carob is somewhat sweet. It has a very mild, chocolate-like flavor that is both calming to the palate and highly addicting.

As it may be used without any additional sweetness, it is a fantastic alternative for someone who is trying to avoid sugar. However, you may easily add additional sweetener if you’d want to change the sweetness to your preference.

Is carob a superfood?

Yes, carob is gaining popularity as a superfood. Carob is considered to be a healthy meal due to its high nutritional content, lack of caffeine, low fat and high protein content, low allergenicity, lack of addiction, and presence of helpful antioxidants.

It is frequently used in detox and elimination diets since it is a nutritious carbohydrate and extremely gentle on the body.

Calcium and potassium, which are both abundant in carob, are believed to lessen muscular cramps, strengthen bones, and increase heart health. It contains a lot of B6, which helps to stabilise emotions and lessen premenstrual symptoms. Along with a variety of vitamins and minerals, it also has copper, manganese, zinc, selenium, and magnesium, as well as vitamins A, B2, B3, and B6.

What are the health benefits of carob powder?

People frequently compare carob to chocolate because of how similar their flavors are. But carob is better for you than chocolate.

When compared to cocoa, carob health benefits include:

  • Carob has twice as much calcium as cocoa does.
  • Carob is devoid of a substance that causes migraines
  • Carob is devoid of fat and caffeine

On the other hand, cocoa includes oxalic acid, which prevents calcium from being absorbed. It can cause migraines in certain individuals and is rich in fat and salt.

Carob is vitamin-rich (A, B2, B3, and B6). As additional minerals, it contains copper, calcium, manganese, potassium, magnesium, zinc and selenium. Protein, pectin, and fiber are all abundant in carob.

Carob pods and carob powder
Carob powder

Due to the mentioned health benefits, it makes sense to include it in your diet. It is an excellent choice for those with high blood pressure because it is naturally high in fiber and has no caffeine.

Carob’s low sugar and fat content makes it a great ingredient which can most of the time be used as a chocolate replacement. Vitamins A and B2 that are present in carob, contribute to the health of your skin and eyes.

To summarize it, your diet can greatly benefit from including carob: reduced cholesterol, lower your heart disease risk, stomach discomfort and diarrheal disease are just some of the carob’s benefits.

There is a great article about connection between carob and metabolic health where you can dive even deeper into carob’s health benefits.

If you are interested in carob’s gastroprotective properties, I suggest you read a paper on gastroprotective effect of carob.

Is carob powder better raw or roasted?

There are two methods to use carob powder. In both forms, the powder tastes differently. When it is roasted, it develops a lovely caramel flavor and becomes sweeter and earthy.

You may use roasted carob, which takes on a somewhat darker hue, to make brownies, cakes, cookies, and other baked goods.

Not to be considered better or worse, the main difference between raw and roasted carob powder is in its taste. Similar to how raw cacao differs somewhat from roasted cacao, raw carob has a less evolved taste.

Also like many other foods, raw carob has a better micronutrient profile because it wasn’t heat-treated.

Carob powder may be used similarly to cocoa powder and in the same proportion in baked products; however, because it is naturally sweeter than cocoa powder, you might need to cut back on the sugar if you’re replacing it.

Carob may also be made into syrup and sweetened and unsweetened baking chips. Comparable chocolate chips don’t melt the same way as carob chips do. Some individuals choose to combine carob and chocolate chips in their biscuit and cake recipes because they taste unique and have a distinct texture. The carob’s inherent sweetness means that the chips are frequently without additional sugar.

What is carob used for?

Humans use carob products made from the dried, occasionally baked pod, which is divided into two primary components: the pulp, which makes up 90% of the weight, and the seeds, which make up 10%.

Carob pulp is offered for sale as “chunks” or as powder. Although the seed of the carob may also be used to make flour for both human and animal nutrition, the seed is typically removed before carob powder is prepared.

Due to the color, texture, and flavor of carob, it is occasionally used as an alternative for chocolate. Carob powder is used as an ingredient in cakes, cookies, and other baked goods since they are slightly sweet on their own (being around 1/3 to 1/2 sugar by dry weight).

I bet you didn’t know that carob pods are used to make the traditional Maltese treat known as karamelli tal-hard rub, which is consumed during the Christian festivals of Lent and Good Friday. Another fun fact: The Jewish festival of Tu Bishvat is traditionally celebrated by eating dried carob fruit.

The primary commercial application of carob seeds is the creation of locust bean gum (LBG), a thickening ingredient used in the food world. In low-calorie goods, locust bean gum is used as a thickener ingredient, a stabilizer, or even to substitute for gluten.

Carob is occasionally used to manufacture snacks that resemble chocolates for dogs since it lacks caffeine and theobromine, a chemical component that is harmful to certain animals and present in chocolate.

Me and Tara use carob when we are making chocolate-like desserts. It is not that we don’t like chocolate, it is just that we have gotten used to carob and prefer it over chocolate. I suggest you try our delicous vegan carob pudding recipe or our vegan banana ice cream with carob.

If you are interested in exploring further interesting facts about carob, I suggest a study on Functional Components of Carob Fruit which can be found at National Library of Medicine website.

Can diabetics eat carob?

Since clinical studies have shown that carob powder has a low glycemic index and the sugar it contains is gradually absorbed, it does not cause hyperglycemia, thus diabetics don’t need to be concerned about the sugar content of carob.

It goes without saying that carob cannot be sweetened with sweeteners, sugar, or other sugar compounds to be suitable for diabetes. Carob is already quite sweet and doesn’t need to be sweetened; however, you might use stevia or cinnamon.

There are commercial carob concoctions with syrups, sweeteners, or added honey. People with diabetes should not use those.

Diabetics say eating carob pods helps them to lower their raised blood sugar as part of Yemeni folk medicine. However, no research has been done to support this claim.

Just be aware that carob contains more sugar than cocoa powder. Carob powder contains around 1/2 teaspoons, in just 2 tablespoons. However, you may reduce the amount of fat and calories by using carob powder instead of chocolate chips. 51 g of sugar and fewer than 1 g of fat may be found in one cup of carob powder.

It is not always true that two foods will taste the same just because they appear similar. Take cauliflower rice as an example. In various cuisines where fried rice is used in stuffed peppers, cauliflower may be used instead of rice. But despite how much it resembles rice, rice doesn’t have the same taste nor nutritional values.

A similar argument may be made for carob, a food that strongly resembles cocoa and has been promoted as a chocolate alternative. However, just because carob powder may be used in place of cocoa powder in a recipe doesn’t guarantee the finished product will taste the same as cocoa.

Over the years, advocates of healthy eating and recipe writers have attempted to treat the two powders as interchangeable, but chocolate fans have simply never accepted it. So, carob never really became as popular as chocolate and probably never will.

Conclusion

Carob is a great superfood that can be used instead of chocolate/cocoa, in case your body has digestive or nutritional concerns, such as gluten sensitivity.

If a recipe requires chocolate, you may use carob powder and chunks the same way you might use chocolate. An importantly, you may still indulge in your favorite sweets while consuming fewer calories, fats, and sugars.

Carob is safe to eat and may be used as an ingredient in food, medicine, and cosmetics, according to the FDA.

In most health food stores, carob is available as chips, gum, or powder for use as an ingredient. It may be purchased in tablet form at the majority of pharmacies as a supplement.

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Gregory Knox
Gregory Knox

I'm Gregory, a father and animal lover. Ex vegan store owner and a foodie. My fascination in researching and pushing the limits of vegan nutrition takes me to new heights.