It tastes like chocolate (without the caffeine!), it appears in several important Biblical tales and the weight of its seeds provided the basis for measuring the relative purity of objects made from gold (the carat). Often called the locust tree, carob’s edible pod is often referred to as St. John’s bread. John the Baptist spent much time in the wilderness, living on “locusts and honey” (Matthew 3:4). Just as “locust” most certainly meant carob rather than the insect, “honey” probably referred to the juice from crushed dates. Carob flour and dates were used to make bread that was naturally-sweetened with a hint of chocolate.
What does it do?
A nutritional powerhouse, carob provides vitamins A, B (B1, B2, B3 and B6) and D, plus calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese and selenium. High in antioxidants, carob helps slow the aging process by repairing damage caused by free radical molecules. A report published in 2011 discusses the power of carob germ powder to target and destroy specific cervical cancer cells. In another study individuals who consumed 4 grams of carob fiber daily for four weeks lowered their total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Carob leaves offer antibacterial substances capable of fighting the bacterium responsible for the food-poisoning disease, listeriosis.
About the herb
A member of the pea family, carob is a flowering evergreen tree or bush native to the Mediterranean region. Drought-resistant and salt-tolerant, this sturdy plant rises up to 50 feet and features large, shiny leaves. Having both male and female trees, the carob plant must share pollen to produce flowers. Dried or roasted, the pod is the part of the plant that serves as a highly nutritious and delicious chocolate substitute.
To satisfy your sweet tooth along with any lingering doubt that chocolate cravings can be fulfilled the healthy way, enjoy carob in its many edible forms—syrup, flour, baked goods, etc. Use carob syrup to soothe sore throats and coughs. A teaspoon of carob powder mixed into a glass of water provides a tasty way to deal with diarrhea. Raising tree crops benefits the environment, as this perennial life form blossoms and fruits for many years in the same place, unlike annual crops that require oil-dependent agricultural machinery for their yearly replacement.