Carob Pods – And What To Do With Them

Last week I spoke with one of our suppliers who has a Nut Grove North of Melbourne. He asked me if I could help him move some carob pods which he grows pesticide free.

My knowledge of carob is pretty limited – when we were kids my Mum gave us carob treats and drinks in place of chocolate, which at the time tasted like a dusty, herbal consolation prize! More recently I’ve bought carob rice cake treats for my own kids – again to try and sell it to them as a chocolate substitute (this apple did not fall far from the tree…!)

But until this week, I had no idea where carob came from or what an amazing story it has to tell.

ABOUT THE CAROB TREE
The carob tree, or Ceratonia siliqua is a remarkable plant of the legume family, native to the Mediterranean and the Middle East.   It dates back to biblical times and the carob pods are believed to be the “locusts” that John the Baptist was said to have lived on in the wilderness (which is why the tree is also known as “St John’s Bread”).

The carob tree produces large pods which are brown when dried.  These flat, stiff pods contain several regular brown seeds (which are hard as stone and can’t be eaten – trust me…) but it’s the pods themselves which are used for carob powder or for the making of carob syrup.  Although the seeds (known as locust beans) are inedible, they are actually quite valuable and have an interesting history of their own.

It is believed that the regularity of these seeds led to them being used as units of measurement for weighing precious things.  They were used thousands of years ago to measure gold and gems in “carats” (derived from the botanical name for carob!)  Each bean weighs about 200 milligrams and so 1 carob seed came to represent 1 carat.  One article on the net suggests that the seeds were not as regular as believed and suggests that some sneaky individuals had two sets of seeds – one set of larger ones for buying gold and a smaller set for selling it!

Even before reading about this, I decided to make myself a necklace out of them because they’re quite beautiful!

The pods are rich in protein (approximately 8%) and sugar and contain vitamins A and D as well as some of the B vitamins, magnesium, calcium, iron and other minerals.  They were traditionally used for animal fodder but today, we mostly grind them to produce the flour which is commonly used as a chocolate substitute.  Carob powder is caffeine-free, almost fat-free and is naturally very sweet.  Some say it is an aphrodisiac!

WE DID SOME EXPERIMENTING…
We bought a few kilograms to have a play and see how these pods could be used.  First we ate them fresh – they taste sweet, almost like caramel or a very dry date, but the seeds are definitely dangerously hard!

Then Joseph got inspired and found a few ways to produce carob powder from the pods – he prepared them in 3 different ways:

1. Cut them open (raw), take out the seeds and then put them straight into a blender (he used our coffee grinder). The powder was very pleasant and amazingly sweet. (would probably be ideal for baking just like this)

2. The second batch he roasted on the lowest setting on our oven for 10-15 minutes. Then he removed the seeds with a knife and ground the pods as above – this definitely had a stronger flavour.

3. This third batch was by far the best flavour, though more work – he boiled the pods for 10 minutes, then cut them open, removed the seeds, then put the pods into a baking tray and baked it on a low heat for about half an hour. He then ground the pods in the coffee grinder to a fine powder, per the picture above.
This batch tasted incredible, like a gourmet version of the carob you might be used to… Made up as a ‘hot chocolate’ it is truly delicious, though if I’d tasted it without knowing what it was I might not have guessed carob. It’s almost like rich, malty caramel….  amazing.

CAROB CRACKLES!
Then I made up a batch of carob crackles, using – as I often do – just what we had in the pantry. I used coconut oil instead of copha, coconut powder instead of shredded coconut, organic puffed rice and carob powder. No sugar, no caffeine, but very yum!

This is the recipe I used:

1 cup puffed rice
3 tablespoons carob powder
1/4 cup coconut flour
65g coconut oil

As with chocolate crackles, just mix all dry ingredients together, add melted coconut oil then spoon into paper cases and refrigerate.

The only thing I would say is that shredded coconut is bound to be nicer than the flour which is very drying in this batch, but otherwise I am really happy to have found such a natural, sweet and delicious treat!

What a great find!

If you’d like to try some, we can now supply carob pods in 250g nets or 2kg bags. Click here for details.

And check out the great recipe for Carob Plum Morsels developed for us by the amazing  Tenina Holder!

~ Kristen.

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