It’s carob (keçiboynuzu or harnup in Turkish) season and anyone who has carob trees either in their garden, or growing wild in their area, will notice they are full of, what look like, dark coloured pea pods.

But how much do you know about carob?

What is carob?

Carob (Ceratonia siliqua), also called locust bean or St. John’s bread, is a tree of the pea family (Fabaceae), and is grown for its edible pods. The names locust bean and St. John’s bread stem from the belief that the “locusts” on which John the Baptist fed were carob pods. It is native to the eastern Mediterranean region.

Turkey has a rich natural carob population and trees thrive together with a number of other species of vegetation consisting of hardy evergreen shrubs and small trees characteristic of Mediterranean coastal regions.

Old Carob trees in an almond orchard on the Lycian Way
The glossy, evergreen leaves of a carob tree on Şovalye Island
Carob pods ripe for picking

What is carob used for?

The ripe dried pods can be ground into a powder that is somewhat similar in flavour to cocoa, and carob powder, chips, and syrups are commonly used as an alternative to chocolate in health-food products.

Carob pods ground into a fine powder -Photograph courtesy of Danette May

Carob or chocolate?

Carob tastes like chocolate but without the fat and calorie content. Chocoholics may disagree, but there are still many reasons to think about including carob in your diet.

Why should you include carob in your diet?

Carob is high in vitamins and minerals and contains calcium, zinc, vitamin K, potassium, vitamin E and antioxidants. It is also high in fibre so you don’t feel hungry as quickly.

It is lower in sugar and fat than chocolate, great for people with diabetes. It is also a substitute for people who love chocolate but suffer from migraines or insomnia, conditions that can be triggered by caffeine or theobromine, both of which are found in chocolate.

Carob improves digestion and lowers cholesterol levels.

Since it does not contain caffeine, carob benefits people with high blood pressure.

It has three times more calcium than chocolate and phosphorous too. This helps boost bone health.

The polyphenols in carob are also powerful natural antioxidants, protecting your body from damage from free radicals and environmental toxins.

Using carob in cooking

We’ve given you a number of reasons why including carob in your diet is a good idea. Here are some ways you can use it in cooking.

Replace chocolate with carob, use approximately three tablespoons of carob powder for each square of chocolate that the recipe calls for.

Carob powder

Carob can be used as a sugar replacement. Carob powder is almost 50% natural sugar and can be used instead of sugar in bread and pastry products.

Carob brown bread

Here’s a recipe for you to try.

Walnut Brownies

Ingredients

1/4 cup butter

6 tablespoons carob powder

1 cup white sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 egg whites

1 cup chopped walnuts.

Instructions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.

Melt the butter or margarine over low heat. Pour into large mixing bowl and stir in carob powder, sugar, salt, flour, and vanilla. Mix in egg whites and walnuts. Spread the dough evenly into the baking pan.

Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10-15 minutes before cutting.

Click here for more carob recipes

Process your own carob

The best way to get your carob is to process it yourself from fresh pods.

Click here for instructions on how to process carob.

The powder keeps for up to a year in an airtight container.

Don’t miss your chance whilst carob is in season!

 

 

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