What Are Carobs: Learn About Carob Tree Care And Uses

While little known to many people, carob trees (Ceratonia siliqua) have a lot to offer to the home landscape given suitable growing conditions. This age-old tree has an interesting history as well as a number of uses. Keep reading for more carob tree information.

What are Carobs?

Chocolate, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…and calories. Made up of about half fat, chocolate addictions (such as mine) beg for a solution. Carob is just that solution. Rich not only in sucrose but also 8% protein, containing vitamins A and B plus several minerals, and about one-third the calories of chocolate without the fat (yep, fat free!), carob makes an ideal substitute for chocolate.

So, what are carobs? Carob growing in the their native habitat can be found in the eastern Mediterranean, probably in the Middle East, where it has been cultivated for over 4,000 years. Carob growing has also been referred to in the Bible and was known to the ancient Greeks as well. In the Bible, the carob tree is also called St. John’s bean or locust bean in reference to the “locusts” eaten by John the Baptist, which were represented by the hanging pods or legumes of the plant.

A member of the Fabaceae or Legume family, carob tree information states that it is an evergreen tree with pinnate leaves of two to six oval pairs that grows to about 50 to 55 feet (15 to 16.7 m.) tall.

Additional Carob Tree Information

Cultivated around the world for its sweet and nutritious fruits, carob seeds were once used to weigh gold, which is where the word ‘carat’ is derived. The Spanish brought carob growing to Mexico and South America, and the British introduced carob trees to South Africa, India and Australia. Introduced into the United States in 1854, carob trees are now a familiar sight throughout California where its warm, drier climate is ideal for carob growing.

Thriving in Mediterranean-like climes, carob grows well anywhere that citrus grows and is grown for its fruit (pod), which is most familiarly known for its use ground into a flour and substituted for cocoa beans. The long, flat brown carob pods (4 to 12 inches (10 to 30 cm.)) also contain a polysaccharide gum, which is odorless, tasteless and colorless, and is used in many products.

Livestock may also be fed carob pods, while people have long used the pod husks for medicinal purposes such as that of a throat balm or chewing lozenge to relieve hoarseness.

How to Grow Carob Trees

Sowing seed directly is probably the most common method for how to grow carob trees. Fresh seeds germinate quickly, while dried seeds need to be scarred and then soaked for a period of time until swollen two to three times in size. Traditionally planted in flats and then transplanted once the seedlings attain a second set of leaves, germination for carob trees is only about 25 percent certain. Carob should be spaced 9 inches (23 cm.) apart in the garden.

For the home gardener, an established 1-gallon (3.78 L) carob tree start might more prudently be purchased from a nursery. Keep in mind that conditions in your garden must closely mimic those of the Mediterranean, or grow carob in a greenhouse or in a container, which can be moved into a protected area indoors. Carob trees may be grown in USDA zones 9-11.

Be patient as carob trees grow slowly at first but begin to bear in the sixth year of planting and may remain productive for 80 to 100 years.

Carob Tree Care

Carob tree care dictates establishing the carob tree in an area of the landscape in full sun and well drained soil. While carob can withstand drought and alkalinity, it does not tolerate acidic soil or overly wet conditions. Water the carob infrequently, or not at all, depending on your climate.

Once established, carob trees are strong and resilient and are affected by few diseases or pests, although scale may be an issue. Severe infestation of these immovable armored insects may cause oddly shaped and yellowing leaves, oozing bark, and general stunting of the carob tree. Prune out any areas that are afflicted with scale.

Some other insects, such as predatory lady beetles or parasitic wasps, may afflict the carob as well and can be treated with horticultural oil if absolutely necessary.

Really, the biggest threat to the carob is its dislike for soggy soil and overly wet conditions, which lead to stunted trees and inability to absorb nutrition, causing yellowing and leaf drop. Generally, an established plant will not need to be fertilized, but if these problems are plaguing the tree, a dose of fertilizer may be beneficial and, of course, cut back on irrigation.


Known for its sweet flavor and often consumed as a substitute for chocolate, carob has a long history of uses as a source of nutrition and health benefits.

By HerbaZest Editorial Team | Updated: Nov 10, 2020

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  • Common name(s) Carob, St. John's Bread, Locust Bean
  • Scientific name Ceratonia siliqua
  • Plant type Tree
  • Native region North Africa/Middle East, Mediterranean
  • Main producer(s) Spain
  • Main Economic Use Food industry

Native to the Mediterranean region, particularly the Middle East, carob has been used as both a culinary ingredient and a medicinal herb for millennia. Nowadays, the tall, robust carob tree grows in warm regions around the world, and it is widely appreciated for its sweet flavor and nutritional content as well as for its healing properties.

Carob in the Pacific Northwest?

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  • Ceratonia siliqua, commonly known as the carob tree, St John's-bread, or locust bean, or simply locust-tree, is a species of flowering evergreen shrub or tree in the pea family, Fabaceae. It is widely cultivated for its edible pods, and as an ornamental tree in gardens. The ripe, dried pod is often ground to carob powder, which is used to replace cocoa powder. Carob bars, an alternative to chocolate bars, are often available in health-food stores.

    The carob tree is native to the Mediterranean region, including Southern Europe, Northern Africa, the larger Mediterranean islands, the Levant and Middle-East of Western Asia into Iran and the Canary Islands and Macaronesia. - Wikipedia

    there is very little information on the internet about the conditions for growing and ripening of the seed pod. 80% certain the carob tree will survive the winters in zone 8 (arctic out-blasts might be a problem), also the size of the tree could be a problem if it where to grow in a passive greenhouse. what I am curious about is if the summers in the pacific northwest are long and/or hot enough for the carob to produce it's very very yummy seed pods (taster then 'true' chocolate), also not sure if carob needs to be cross pollinated or not.

    i can buy carob powder in the local health food store but it is very expansive

    just read the article some more and carob does need a male and female plant, also there is a brief mention about

    The most labour-intensive part of carob cultivation is harvesting, which is often done by knocking the fruit down with a long stick and gathering them together with the help of laid-out nets. This is a delicate task because the trees are flowering at the same time and care has to be taken not to damage the flowers and the next year's crop - Wikipedia

    this brings up another question how frost tolerant are the flowers?

    and one more question i just thought of, how are the flowers pollinated?


    Though carob trees resist most pest infestations, they are not immune to armored scales. These sucking bugs feed on plant tissue sap. Although they are often mistaken for small growths on plant surfaces, scales are simply immobile pests with hard shells that blend in with twigs. Measuring less than 1/8-inch in diameter, armored scales display a plate-like cover, according to the University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program. Although mild infestations cause little damage, severe infestations may result in oozing bark, distorted, yellow leaves that fall early from the tree, branch death and overall stunted growth. Scales generally do not result in plant death.

    Carob and free treats are going away

    By Christopher Nyerges

    T he world seems to have a love-hate relationship with the carob tree.

    According to archivist Richard E. White of Highland Park, many carob trees growing around Glendale, Pasadena, Temple City and other cities were planted by Seventh-day Adventists in the aftermath of the Great Depression and Dust Bowl era.

    “Years ago, some farsighted Seventh-day Adventists planted carob trees around and on the grounds of almost all the Pasadena-area public schools,” White said.

    “They apparently hoped the students would gather and eat this free and nutritious food should there be another Depression and a scarcity of food. If children were encouraged to eat carob instead of candy bars, there would soon be no more litter problems under the carob trees and, perhaps, fewer cavities in youthful mouths.”

    Certainly well-intended, although a simple observation shows very few of the pods are being eaten by anyone, let alone children.

    Health food enthusiasts and authors have been advocating carob over chocolate since the 1940s at least. The reasons are many. The pods, once ripened, can be picked and eaten with no preparation, besides wiping off the dust. They are very sweet and chewy, though the hard seeds should be spit out.

    Though carob is often compared to chocolate, chocolate and carob are two very different creatures. Chocolate’s appeal is the presence of the stimulating theobromine, but raw chocolate is bitter. By contrast, carob has 60% fewer calories per pound than chocolate and lacks any stimulants. Also, the carob pod is naturally sweet. Carob’s natural flavor is akin to dates, and the flavor is completely different from chocolate.

    The carob pods are analyzed as having 4% protein (4.5 grams of protein per 100 grams, 20.4 grams of protein per pound) and 76% carbohydrate. In addition, carob pods contain substantial phosphorus (81 milligrams per 100 grams, 367 milligrams per pound) and are extremely rich in calcium (352 milligrams per 100 grams, 1,597 milligrams per pound).

    Carob contains none of chocolate’s oxalic acid, which interferes with the body’s ability to assimilate calcium. It is rich in A and B vitamins and many other minerals.

    Clearly, carob is a superior food that ought to be utilized by more of use.

    Many cities have since made war on the carob trees, and have slowly begun to cut them down. This is usually a result of planting them in inappropriate spots, such as between a sidewalk and street in the urban areas. In such cases, the shallowly watered roots often break sidewalks, and the pods continually fall to the ground, causing people to sometimes trip and fall.

    “When carob trees are pruned, they tend to go rotten,” said arborist and Pasadena resident Timothy Snider.

    “And I don’t mean pruned wrong, just pruned. So ideally, they should never be pruned. And they should never be planted as street trees, because the cities always want to prune them, and they usually do wood butcher jobs, and hack at the tree. Then they are even more prone to the sulfur fungus, which tends to eat them out. Carob is a good tree, but should be planted in more open areas like parks, fields, farms and graveyards. Remember, the carob in its original state is more of a shrub. They had to be trained to be trees, so it is really inappropriate to use carobs as street trees.”

    There was a short-lived carob farm in Riverside County, but it was discontinued because its quality did not match that of its native home.

    The carob tree is native to the Middle East, where the pods have a long history of use as food. The trees widely planted throughout Pasadena and the United States all produce edible pods, though they are inferior to the commercially grown pods. Most commercial carob now comes from Cyprus.

    Remember the prodigal son in the Bible? After he left his father’s home, he was hungry from famine and without money, and looked in the pig’s feed for carob husks to eat (Luke 15:16). Biblical scholars who focus on the botany of the Bible believe that these husks were not corn, as commonly believed, but carob.

    Carob makes another appearance in the New Testament. In Mark 1:16, John the Baptist is described as eating “locusts and wild honey” in the desert. Although many believe that these locusts were the insect relatives of grasshoppers, Thaddeus M. Harris in his “Natural History of the Bible,” suggests that the “locusts” were actually carob pods.

    Harris spends a lot of time in his efforts to prove this, adding, “It is well known that the insect locusts were eaten in the east. And commentators have exhausted their learning and ingenuity to prove that St. John ate these insects in the wilderness. But the origins of the word ‘locust’ also signifies buds or pods of trees. And everyone must suppose that the Baptist lived on a food which nature itself furnished to accommodate his palate.”

    Furthermore, as Harris said, carob pods have long been called “locusta,” and the tree is still commonly referred to as St. John’s Bread Tree.

    Besides eating the pods, folks can also remove the seeds, and grind the pods into a sweet flour which can be added to cakes, cookies and pancake recipes, adding sweetness and a brown color.

    “As anyone who grows these trees will tell you, carobs yield a boatload of pods,” said Tony Kienitz, food writer.

    “In springtime, hundreds of 6-inch-long, pale-green pods tassel each tree. In late summer, these pods ripen to a deep brown and begin raining to the ground. The whopping crop is a maintenance burden to some, a religious symbol to others.

    “St. John’s bread is the colloquial name given to the tree based on the belief that the locusts that fed John the Baptist were actually carob pods. Dried carob graces Jewish tables during the holiday Tu Bishvat. During Ramadan, Muslims serve drinks made with carob juice.”

    Raw Carob Powder VS. Roasted

    Raw ripe carob pod and powder is a great nourishing fiber-rich food to add to many dessert recipes, shakes and hot beverages. Most people who have used carob have likely bought it roasted. It is traditionally prepared this way to increase flavor.

    However, there are raw carob powders available that are considered more beneficial to health. These raw powders contain active nutrients that have not been destroyed through excessive roasting or high heat temperatures.

    If you are following a raw food diet, you might want to make sure you are getting the really raw version as most advertised as "raw carob" have actually been heat processed over 118В°F.

    Visit our How to Make Carob Powder page for info on making your own.

    Really raw carob powder can be purchased from certain online distributors if you don't happen to have access to local fresh carob pods. The other option is to buy the dried carob fruit or pieces in bulk and powder the pods down yourself.

    Many times all the carob you might be able to find in stores is heated or roasted. There are still some health benefits present in these types of carob powders and, moreover, some of you may just be using it for its flavor not necessarily for health reasons.

    We personally use and recommend harvesting or purchasing the best, organic, minimally processed carob available.

    For a simple carob fudge recipe process together carob powder, lecithin, coconut oil, nut milk, vanilla and a natural sweetener. Pour into a mold, refrigerate for 2 hours and cut up into fudge squares.

    Carob is relatively safe to consume for most people. Generally, we recommended consulting your healthcare advisor if pregnant, nursing, taking prescription medications or if you have a serious medical condition.

    Watch the video: Carob Tree

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