Carob is a fruit that decades ago would have been unthinkable to become a confectionery star. While each new study shows more benefits of this ingredient with a touch of nuts and oats, diabetics, gluten intolerants and pastry lovers find in its flour an ally for new delights that range from brownies to alfajores. Discover below its farmer origins, where it is grown and all the qualities that make it so.
What is carob: origin and history
carob is fruit of the carob tree (ceratonia silica), a dark brown pod, of the legume family. It populates the branches of this strong tree with the essence of the Mediterranean, which is distributed near the coasts, where the climate is mild, and the cold does not kill it. In Spain it is cultivated mainly in Valencia, Castellón, Tarragona and the Balearic Islands. Also in Alicante, Murcia and Malaga. And is that as long as the temperature remains mild and warm then little rainfall is not a problem.
Used since ancient times, the carob tree is planted between March and April and requires at least 5 to 7 years to bear fruit. After the pods appear, they remain green and dormant. They multiply rapidly between March and June, when the pods begin to develop their iconic chestnut colour. Carob is harvested in September once it has reached the optimum point of maturity. On such occasions, when the summer is particularly hot, its collection is brought forward a few weeks.
The origin of the carob tree is uncertain, although most botanists suggest that it originated in the Middle East and that it reached the Iberian Peninsula after being introduced in Egypt and taken to Greece and Italy.
its fruits for centuries It was used to feed cattle and, later, in the food industry as a thickening additive., Crop yields decreased after the frosts of 1956 and 1985, the presence of cheap additives, and the breakdown of agricultural machinery. The cold wiped out large numbers of carob trees, while the lack of reliance on livestock led to a decline in fodder consumption.
While experts and agronomists continue to assess the profitability of this crop today, gastronomy has given it a New life as a chocolate substitute. For this purpose, you can use carob flour, which can be bought at herbalists, specialty stores or supermarkets. And it can also be prepared at home by separating the seeds, dehydrating the pods in an oven and grinding them finely.
What is carob used for?
Carob is used for the preparation of sweets such as cookies and cakes, industrially as a food additive and, in the livestock world, as animal feed. We review the three main uses of the sheath.
carob, a confectionery ingredient
Carob flour has a sweet touch ideal for pastry preparation cake, biscuits, Cream And there are even some who dare with rotis. The flour prepared for this purpose is obtained from the pulp of the pod, which is first separated from the seeds, dehydrated and crushed. Carob is also used to prepare syrup In which the pulp separated from the seeds is mixed with water and boiled till the desired consistency is obtained.
as a food additive
Carob seed is used to make it food additive E410also known as a thickener carob gum Or locust bean gum. Carob seeds have three parts: the germ, the endosperm, and the shell. Endosperm is the one which contains more than 80% galactomannano Responsible for imparting its thickening and stabilizing properties. The foods in which locust gum is most commonly used are in making ice cremSpreadable cheese, jam and some sauces.
as cattle feed
There are records of the use of this fruit to feed cattle from ancient Egypt. Due to its energy value and fiber content it is used to feed ruminants, rabbits and horses. It has not been widely used in other livestock families, which may require higher protein intake. At present, the production for this purpose continues to decline due to increase in the cost of raw materials among other reasons.
types of carob
There are many varieties of carob tree (ceratonia silica), depending on the type of flower, the region and its performance. Carob varies in size, sweetness, and color depending on the type. Some of the best known varieties are:
carob tree fruit Barcelona, Tarragona and Castellón, Characterized for a shiny black colour, white pulp and very sweet and sweet taste. The yield of the tree is average but its yield is very irregular.
melar o melera
further south, in Valencia and Alicante Melera is the carob, the color of the carob is red, medium size, but with a more abundant and regular harvest than the Negreta type.
Like Melera, this variety of carob is found in Valencia And there are abundant crops. Its drawback is that its carob is not ideal for food production as it has little pulp and is not particularly sweet.
This carob tree is found Barcelona and Tarragona. The carob is cinnamon in color, slightly higher than average, and with one quality: it is the locust bean variety with the largest amount of seeds in its seeds, making it a preferred variety for the manufacture of food additives.
rib or channel
the kind we can find Mallorca This is the costella or canal carob tree. Its fruit is brown, and although its shape is similar to that of the Roselle variety, it is somewhat woody and not particularly sweet. However, it is one of the most cold-resistant carob varieties.
durayo or durayona
This other special kind Mallorca It is more sensitive to cold than Costella. Its slow growth is compensated by the sugar-rich fruit and the high percentage of locust beans in its seeds, which is slightly below that of the Rosal variety.
This carob tree is most widespread in Andalusia, especially in red color, There are two subgroups within their family, both with variable production depending on region and carob with a notable locust bean content.
Properties and benefits of carob
Although there may be slight differences in the properties of its fruit depending on the specific carob cultivar, the truth is that carob has many benefits and properties. The pod is rich in insoluble fiber and phenols, which give it many benefits such as its excellent antioxidant power and its role in bowel regulation.
Furthermore, although it is rich in sugars, mainly sucrose and, to a lesser extent, glucose, maltose and fructose, it has a low glycemic indexwhich makes it an optimal ingredient for diabetic patients, It is also suitable for those who are intolerant to gluten, an ideal alternative to the classic flour. Its properties do not end there, its protective effect against cancer, strengthening the immune system or against cholesterol are some of them:
anticarcinogenic and immune system stimulant
carob has one High D-Pinetol Content, an inositol from the family of polyalcohols, of vital importance to proper cell function. This ingredient is known for its anti-carcinogenic and anti-aging properties as well as its antioxidant and liver protective role. Researchers have also discovered this ingredient’s anti-inflammatory potential and ability to strengthen the immune system.
Controls sugar and diabetes
Studies have shown that carob flour, as well as its infused leaves, can inhibit part of the enzymatic activity responsible for digesting carbohydrates. This inhibition delays the release of blood sugar resulting in a influence anti-hyperglycemic, ie, able to avoid high blood sugar concentrations.
In addition, it has also been shown that carob Lower amount of glucose absorbed In the intestine. This factor, together with the previous one, makes carob an associated food for diabetics.
helps keep cholesterol away
Carob Pod Fiber can reduce the level of cholesterol ldl, which is harmful to heart health. Not only does it positively affect people with cholesterol, but it has also been linked to body weight gains, better digestion and more efficient use of fat.
Effective against constipation and diarrhea
Carob has the quality of being beneficial for controlling both constipation and diarrhea. The difference is whether the carob being used is still green or has already reached maturity. In the case of ripe carob, thank you for high fiber content And sugars can increase intestinal transit, relieving constipation. However, when it comes to carob that is still green, it contains practically no fiber or sugar, which has been shown to lead to a reduction in intestinal transit, helping to control cases of diarrhea.
Ideal for dealing with gastritis
Aqueous extract of carob pod promotes good condition of gastric mucosa. It has a protective effect against gastric ulcers, dyspepsia and other gastrointestinal disorders.
Carob has almost no contraindications or side effects. Still, it’s worth evaluating whether its fiber and sugar content is appropriate for our diets.
fiber and flatulence
Being a fruit rich in insoluble fiber can produce a lot of intestinal activity Abdominal distension. This only occurs with preparations that are consumed in large quantities per portion, such as pure carob cream. Today, however, it is common to combine it with nuts such as hazelnuts, which reduce the ratio of flour to carob per serving.
Not suitable for low FODMAP diet
FODMAPs is the name for a specific group of sugars and polyols. Carob presents two of them galactose, and to a lesser extent fructose. People who suffer from intestinal pathology such as SIBO (intestinal bacterial overgrowth) or irritable colon should avoid consuming FODMAPs as it may aggravate their pathological picture. For this reason, it is also recommended to avoid consumption of carb rich in FODMAPs.
Being from the legume family, it is important Check for any type of intolerance or allergy In cases who are already allergic to legumes such as soybeans. It is also related to a higher likelihood of allergy to carob in cases of allergy to nuts.
how can you eat Recipes with Carob
Carob has given rise to an endless number of recipes and preparations. Let’s start with some of the lesser-known ones, such as carob honey, which although difficult to produce and made from flowers, has an aroma reminiscent of fruit. Continuing with all those versions of chocolate desserts in which cocoa is replaced by carob.
What is carob flour used for?
Carob flour, or carob powder, is the preferred format for use in confectionery, This allows us to recreate all the preparations that we can make with cocoa powder, carob powder with milk, in a cream with hazelnuts or in a tablet with cinnamon.
When used for cakes and pastries, its flour is usually more sticky and spongy than wheat flour. Examples of dishes are carob magdalenas, oatmeal and carob cookies, carrot and carob pudding and even versions of iconic Argentine sweets such as alfajores made with carob and dulce de leche.