Updated: Oct 18
I have had very strong memories of the flavor and aroma of carob since when I was a kid. There was one large carob tree near the playground that I would always play in, and ripe, dried bean-shaped pods would fall from the tree onto the ground. I used to pick it up, break the pod into halves and chew on the shell like a snack.
The Carob tree is native to the Mediterranean region and Middle-Eastern countries, It grows wild and has been cultivated and used as a sweetener for 4000 years. The word carob in English was borrowed from Arabic, it's pronounced Kharrub in both Arabic and Hebrew.
A 7-8-inch pod contains between 10-15 small lightweight, almost equal size seeds, and in ancient times people in the Middle East used to weigh gold and gemstones against the seeds of the carob tree. The unit "carat" originated from this system (the word comes from Keration - the Greek word for the carob).
The carob is low in fat and high in natural fibers. It’s a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, and polyphenol antioxidants. The pods are mildly sweet and often roasted and ground into a brown fine powder (called carob powder or carob flour) that is used in baking and sweets. Whole carob pods are cooked with water until reduced, and then the pulp is strained until the result is dark brown syrup. This molasses is an extremely nutritious product and can be used as a natural sweetener.
Carob has a very unique flavor, different from honey or molasses, and it tastes nothing like chocolate. If you grew up in the US in the seventies, when carob was commonly promoted as a chocolate substitute as part of a health movement, you probably still dislike the carob for failing to replace the flavor of chocolate.
We like to blend carob syrup with tahini, and indulge this sweet butter on toast, we swirl carob syrup into plain yogurt, use it as an ice cream topper, and as sweet syrup in cocktails. Carob powder is blended with dates, coconut, sesame, and tahini in our date rolls. We enjoy carob just the way it is naturally – a deep, earthy, and innate sweet.