Carob or Locust

Ceratonia siliqua - L.

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Seed; Seedpod.

Edible Uses: Chocolate; Coffee; Egg; Gum.

Seedpods - raw or ground into a powder. The seedpods are filled with a saccharine pulp and can be eaten both green or dried. They are very sweet but fibrous, the pulp can be used as a chocolate substitute in cakes, drinks etc. It is rich in sugars and protein. The pods contain about 55% sugars, 10% protein and 6% fat. Seed - rich in protein. A flour is made from them which is 60% protein, it is free from sugar and starch and is suitable for baking. It can be used as a chocolate substitute. An edible gum is extracted from the seed, a substitute for Gum Tragacanth (see Astragalus species). A stabilizer and thickening agent, it is also used as an egg substitute. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute.

Medicinal Uses

Astringent; Demulcent; Emollient; Purgative.

The pulp in the seedpods of carob is very nutritious and, due to its high sugar content, sweet-tasting and mildly laxative. However, the pulp in the pods is also astringent and, used in a decoction, will treat diarrhoea and gently help to cleanse and also relieve irritation within the gut. Whilst these appear to be contradictory effects, carob is an example of how the body responds to herbal medicines in different ways, according to how the herb is prepared and according to the specific medical problem. The seedpods are also used in the treatment of coughs. A flour made from the ripe seedpods is demulcent and emollient. It is used in the treatment of diarrhoea. The seed husks are astringent and purgative. The bark is strongly astringent. A decoction is used in the treatment of diarrhoea.

Other Uses

Cosmetic; Tannin; Wood.

A flour made from the seedpods is used in the cosmetic industry to make face-packs. Tannin is obtained from the bark. Wood - hard, lustrous. Highly valued by turners, it is also used for marquetry and walking sticks.

Cultivation details

Requires a very sunny position in any well-drained moderately fertile soil. Does well in calcareous, gravelly or rocky soils. Tolerates salt laden air. This tree is very drought resistant, thriving even under arid conditions, the roots penetrating deep into the soil to find moisture. The young growth in spring, even on mature plants, is frost-tender and so it is best to grow the plants in a position sheltered from the early morning sun. The carob is frequently cultivated in warm temperate zones for its edible seed and seed pods. Mature trees in a suitable environment can yield up to 400 kilos of seedpods annually. The seed is very uniform in size and weight, it was the original 'carat' weight of jewellers. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.

Propagation

Seed - pre-soak for 24 hours in warm water prior to sowing. If the seed has not swollen then give it another soaking in warm water until it does swell up. Sow in a greenhouse in April. Germination should take place within 2 months. As soon as they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual deep pots and grow them on in a greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Give them some protection from the cold for their first few winters outdoors.

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