Ceratonia siliqua - Carob Tree

  • Carob is native to the Eastern Mediterranean, probably the Middle East, where it has been in cultivation for at least 4000 years. The plant was well known to the ancient Greeks, who planted seeds of this plant in Greece and Italy. This plant is also called St. John's bread or locust bean because the pods were once thought to have been the "locusts" that were eaten by John the Baptist in the Wilderness. That story was apparently wrong--he ate migratory locust. Seeds were used to weight gold, hence the word "carat." Mohammed's army ate kharoub, and Arabs planted the crop in northern Africa and Spain (Moors), along with citrus (Citrus) and olives (Olea). Carob grows well anywhere that citrus is grown, and it prefers dry climates that receive more than 300mm of rainfall /year --ideal mediterranean-type climates. The fruit of carob is a pod, technically a legume 15 to 30 centimeters in length and fairly thick and broad. Pods are borne on the old stems of the plant on short flower stalks. Interestingly, most carob trees are monoecious, with individual male and female flowers. The dark-brown pods are not only edible, but also rich in sucrose (almost 40% plus other sugars) and protein (up to 8%). Moreover, the pod has vitamin A, B vitamins, and several important minerals. They can be eaten directly by livestock, but we know carob mostly because the pods are ground into a flour that is a cocoa substitute. Although this product has a slightly different taste than chocolate, it has only one-third the calories (total 1595 calories per pound), is virtually fat-free (chocolate is half fat), is rich in pectin, is nonallergenic, has abundant protein, and has no oxalic acid, which interferes with absorption of calcium. Consequently, carob flour is widely used in health foods for chocolate-like flavouring. Makes great patio plant (keeping it in a conservatory in Winter (or bonsai). It is only hardy in the Far South-West of England.

Also known as:                                                     St John's Bread, Locust Tree
Native to:                                                            East-Mediterranean
Family:                                                                Fabaceae - Pea Family
Habit (UK conditions):                                         Small tree in a pot (slow grower)
Max size in 12 years (UK conditions, in pot):       2 x 1m
Main value:                                                         Shining, leathery leaves; fruits 
Flowers are:                                                       Yellow-orange, female flowers are not significant
Flowering period:                                               Summer-Autumn
Autumn coloration: -                                          (evergreen)
Preferences:                                                       Full sun with very moderate watering
Hardiness:                                                           Not hardy in most of the UK and in Western, Central and Northern Europe
Known hazards:                                                  None to our knowledge
Edible uses:                                                        Fruits, seeds

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