Carob – Ceratonia siliqua

Carob or Locust Bean
Carob or Locust Bean

…I settle into exotic ports

So that I may ply my cacao pod wares for sister carob and patchouli scent

To the peddler who yields cardamom and coriander

 

By Jerry Bradford

The Locust Bean is a tree of Mediterranean origins that is now grown in Mexico and southern California. It was first brought to the New World by Spanish missionaries. In 1856 the Spanish brought 8,000 seedlings and unsprouted seeds to plant in the American south, from Texas to Arizona to California, even a few in Florida.

 

The seed pod of the Locust Bean is known as Carob and was used as a sweetener in Ancient Egypt. The carob pod was used in the hieroglyphs to represent ‘sweet.’ Early mention of the Carob can be found in the Christian Bible and the Jewish Talmud where it has been called a subsistence food. One example is the legend of John the Baptist living on these in the desert; also legend has it that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai also lived on them in the desert.

 

As a food stuff Carob powder and chips are often used in baking, being included in confections such as cakes, cookies, candy, pudding, icing, bread, beverages, shakes, ice cream, muffins, fudge, and brownies. For someone who should not consume caffeine, Carob is often used as a substitute. Although once you taste it, you will not be fooled into thinking it a good substitute, since the flavors differ so greatly. A thickening agent is also obtained from the pods that have been included in processed food production. In Portugal, Spain, and Sicily compotes and liquors are made from Carob. In Germany the roasted beans are sometimes used as a coffee substitute, and in Spain it is mixed with coffee.

 

Under the name of Locust Bean the pods are given to animals as feed. The pods are relished by horses, cattle, pigs, goats, and rabbits. They cannot be fed to chickens, but the flour is often utilized in dog biscuits.

In folk medicine it is a treatment for diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and stomach ache. The powdered beans are mixed with a cup of liquid for this purpose. Mixed with cranberry juice a French physician used it to treat kidney failure successfully. The leaves and bark have been used to treat venereal disease, namely syphilis.

In magic use it was worn or carried to garner protection from evil and secure good health!

Note: Picture above is from Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé, Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz, 1885, Gera, Germany

[Image in Public Domain]

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