Carob is a plant in the pea family (a legume), and is often used today as a substitute for chocolate. The carob plant as we know it today is originated in the Mediterranean over 4,000 years ago. Ancient civilizations like the Egyptians and ancient Greeks highly valued not only sweetness of Carob, but the nutritional benefits the plant bestowed. It was so highly valued, that the word carat comes from measuring a gemstone’s weight in comparison to the carob seed.
Records show that carob was intentionally introduced into the United States in 1854, and the first seedlings were apparently planted in California in 1873. For commercial production cultivars with the finest quality fruits are bud grafted on common stock.
Carob grows well anywhere that citrus is grown, and it prefers dry climates that receive more than 30 centimeters of rainfall–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%).
Carob contains antioxidants, fiber, and is rich in calcium and phosphorus which helps fight osteoporosis. Benefits of Carob also include gallic acid, which has been used to prevent or treat polio in children. Gallic acid is a tannin, has anti viral, anti fungal, and antibacterial qualities. Carob is rich in vitamin E, which helps stave off influenza. Carob also aids in digestive health, lowers cholesterol, and can help people regulate their body weight. It is non allergenic, gluten-free, does not contain caffeine or theobromine (both found in chocolate), and can be used as a 1:1 replacement for chocolate in recipes. It’s important to note that carob does not taste exactly like chocolate–it is typically used because of the brown color, which has an impact on how your food tastes. It can be found in any health food store, and is fairly inexpensive.
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 flavoring.
Apart from the health benefits obtained by subsituting Carob for Cocoa and synthetic sweeteners in our diet, Carob also has excellent nutritional value. Along with up to 80% protien, it contains Magnesium, Calcium, Iron, Phosphorus, Potassium Manganese, Barium, Copper, Nickel and the vitamins A, B, B2, B3, and D. It also has medicinal uses including the treatment of coughs and diarrhoea.
Carob pods are dried or roasted and ground into powder, which is the form it is typically found in–besides carob chips, which often contain additives and oils. Carob has a sweet, slightly bitter, earthy flavor and has been used by cultures around the world for its flavor and healing properties. Locust beans are the seeds of the Carob plant, and locust bean gum is a common food additive as a thickening agent.
Carob has become an important part of the gourmet pet treat industry with many treat makers using it as a coating and ingredient in many of their treats. With Halloween and the holiday season right around the corner we often find it tempting to share our sweet treats with our dogs but instead, get them their own goodies so when you’re indulging in some chocolatey goodness and they give you the sad eyes you can stroll over to their cookie jar and get them a safe alternative that they’ll love.
Stop in to Misty Pines and find all of our gourmet pet treats from Furrever Friends, Tail Bangers and more.