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What is Carob?



The Carob tree Ceratonia siliqua, is a leguminous evergreen shrub or tree of the family Leguminosae (pulse family) native to the Mediterranean region. It is cultivated for its edible seed pods. Carobs are also known as St. John's bread. According to tradition of some Christians, St. John the Baptist subsisted on them in the wilderness.

A traditional food plant in Africa, this little-known fruit has potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable landcare.

Carob is 80% protein and contains vitamins A, B, B2, B3 and D. It is also high in calcium, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium and contains iron, manganese, barium, copper and nickel. However, it should of course only be eaten in moderation alongside a balanced diet. It has no oxalic acid which prevents the body using calcium and zinc. These minerals are vital to a healthy skin and the presence of oxalic acid in chocolate may be connected to the onset of spottiness noticed by some teenagers on the consumption of larger amounts of chocolate.

Active constituents:

The main constituents of carob are large carbohydrates (sugars) and tannins. The sugars make carob gummy and able to act as a thickener to absorb water and help bind together watery stools. Tannins from carob, being water insoluble, do not bind proteins as some tannins do. Carob tannins do bind to (and thereby inactivate) toxins and inhibit growth of bacteriaˇboth of which are beneficial when it comes to diarrhea. Dietary fiber and sugars may make food more viscous in the stomach and thus interfere with reflux of acid into the esophagus.

Traditional uses:

Carob was eaten in Ancient Egypt. It was also a common sweetener and was used in the hieroglyph for "sweet" (nedjem). Dried carob fruit is traditionally eaten on the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat. Carob juice drinks are traditionally drunk during the Islamic month of Ramadan.

Carob pods were the most important source of sugar before sugarcane and sugar beets became widely available. Nowadays, the seeds are processed for the use in cosmetics, curing tobacco, and making paper.

Modern uses:

Carob powder and carob chips are used as an ingredient in cakes and cookies. Carob is sometimes used as a substitute for chocolate, however the flavour is significantly different. The seeds, also known as locust beans, are used as animal feed. They are also the source of locust bean gum, a thickening agent used in numerous processed foods. In Egypt, carobs are consumed as a snack. Crushed pods are used to make a refreshing drink. Compotes and liqueurs are made from carob in Portugal, Spain and Sicily. Carob has proven effective in relieving diarrhea in infants.

Carob's similarity to chocolate in look, smell, and texture has also lead to its use in dog treats that look like pastries made for human consumption. Carob, in this case, is used rather than chocolate because of chocolate's toxicity to a large percentage of dog breeds. Carob is nontoxic to dogs.

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