CAROB, the Chocolate Substitute


Christopher Nyerges is the author of Guide to Wild Foods, available for $17 from School of Self-Reliance, Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041. He has conducted Wild Food Outings since 1974. A schedule of his classes is found in the Talking Leaves Newsletter, available from the School of Self-Reliance.
Christopher’s newsletter can also be viewed on-line at The following article was written by Chris:


Today it is nearly impossible to avoid white sugar in any pre-processed or restaurant food. But not more than a few centuries ago, one of the major food sweeteners in the world was a type of healthful "chocolate" that grows on trees. It is believed that the fruit of this "chocolate" tree was used to feed Mohammed's armies. This fruit also sustained John the Baptist during his sojourn and meditations in the wilderness (Bible, book of Mark 1:16), and provided food for the Biblical prodigal son (Luke 15:16) who was hungry and without money. Spanish Civil War children who ate this fruit during the 1930s were able to remain free of malnutrition. As recently as WWII, isolated military troops and their horses on the island of Malta, and people in villages in Greece, credit their survival during the German occupation to the use of this "chocolate" tree's survival food.
This "chocolate" tree is the carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua). The carob fruit is a dark brown, flattened leathery pod (or legume).
Carob is a native to the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, and is common in the Middle East. These are the areas where the best commercial carob is grown. The trees propagated there from root stock produce the superior carob fruit. Southern Californians and Arizonans know the ornamental carob trees which are so widely planted as street and park trees.
Each leaf is alternately arranged and is typically pinnately divided into six to ten round glossy leathery leaflets. Each pod measures about 1˝inches broad and four to 10 inches long.
Carob powder (or flour) is produced by a continuous process of drying, grinding, and roasting the pods. The resultant flour has a versatile array of uses for those who have rediscovered carob's secrets.
IN PLACE OF CHOCOLATE OR COCOA
Carob powder is used whenever a recipe calls for chocolate or cocoa. To replace carob for cocoa, simply use the same amount of carob. To replace chocolate with carob, use approximately three tablespoons of carob powder for each square of chocolate that the recipe calls for.
IN PLACE OF SUGAR
Carob can also be used as a sugar replacement. Carob powder is almost 50% natural sugar and can be used instead of sugar in virtually all bread and pastry products. This includes bread, waffles, cakes, pies, pancakes, cereals (hot or cold), crepes, muffins, etc. Of course, using carob will result in chocolate-brown colored foods and will impart a vaguely chocolate-like flavor. If this is undesirable, you can try mixing various amounts of carob and honey to find the mixture that suits you best.
Another reason to use carob is its unique flavor. It's often referred to as a chocolate substitute, but carob does have its own unique flavor which lends itself well to shakes, malts, carob-nut bars, bread products, and even mixed into baked beans and barbecue sauces. Carob powder is somewhat reminiscent of chocolate; a fresh carob pod however, has a flavor more similar to dates.
Carob is so different nutritionally and chemically from chocolate that people allergic to chocolate can enjoy carob. A 1973 university study clearly indicated that children who were allergic to chocolate could safely consume carob. The report stated:

"A very sensitive laboratory test which detects antibodies (allergy-type IgE) to chocolate failed to detect antibodies to carob in the blood serum of the same children. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that such children with allergy to chocolate can safely be given carob."
CAROB AS A MEDICINE
James Veler of Los Angeles wrote to me to describe a personal experience.
He stated, "I keep thinking about so many facets of survival -- your articles incline me that way. I wanted to tell you that after I came out of the hospital, I had intense diarrhea for many days and couldn't bring myself to eat anything. I read something about the carob tree in your book, so I went out and bought some carob powder and some raw milk.
"You know, I couldn't eat a thing. I had so many pills in the hospital and my digestion was so disturbed. Those fiendish iron pills were keeping me so disturbed and needing to be near a toilet, plus the dreaded valium, because the doctor thought that I only had a 'nervous stomach.' Ah, but all at once I could drink milk flavored with carob, and I lived on that plus a few cookies and some honey from the ironwood tree of Australia. Anything to boost my appetite. I could get the carob milk down and hold it. And after I quit those pills, all at once I was much better and could eat. I was in such despair for a time, thinking I would never get well. Thanks to the carob!"
Carob is known for its medicinal properties. Reports in medical journals in the 1950s showed that carob powder added to milk formulas could help infants keep down their meals. According to a study reported in Canadian Medical Association Journal, out of 230 infants with diarrhea, only three were not cured by the addition of carob powder to their formula. Carob is also used for the treatment and prevention of diarrhea in livestock, and for the prevention and cure of human dysentery. According to Marian Seddon, writing for Desert magazine, "The pectin and lignin in carob not only regulate digestion, they combine with harmful elements (even radioactive fallout) in digested food and carry them safely out of the body."
NUTRITION
Carob is an incredibly rich food source, and it perhaps the ideal "survival food" since it lasts a long time, requires no special storage conditions, and can be eaten with no preparations. It is rich in calcium, containing 352 mg. per 100 grams, or 1,597 mg. per pound. By comparison, milk -- often regarded as an excellent calcium source -- contains only 120 to 130 mg. of calcium per 100 grams, or 530 to 550 mg. of calcium per pound. Furthermore, carob contains no oxalic acid, as does chocolate, which tends to interfere with the body's ability to assimilate calcium.
Carob pods are about four percent protein and 76% carbohydrates. Although carob is very sweet, it contains 60% less calories than chocolate. Additionally, carob contains substantial phosphorus (81 mg. per 100 grams, or 367 mg. per pound), and an abundance of potassium (800 mg. per 100 grams). Carob contains small amounts of sodium and iron, and it is rich in vitamin A, the B vitamins, and many other minerals.
OTHER USES
Carob also has several non-food uses. The small hard seeds inside the pods were once used as weights and provided the term "carat." These uniform seeds were first used by goldsmiths as measuring devices. Carob seeds are also cooked into a thick gum. Commercial uses for this gum include ink ingredients, film polishes, cosmetics, tooth paste, adhesives, etc. The seeds can be boiled in water to soften and then strung into a necklace.
Carob powder is available at many sources, including supermarkets and health food stores. However, although pure carob is the most healthful, a variety of other ingredients are commonly added to carob, including chocolate, sugar, and cocoa. Thus, it is important for allergic individuals to ascertain that the carob they are purchasing is pure. Carob contains only traces of theobromine, the active stimulant in chocolate and cocoa. However, even theobromine is occasionally added to carob.
The mature pods can be picked off the tree, or gathered from the ground, wiped clean, and eaten. These sweet and chewy pods make nutritional TV or study snacks and can be carried along on driving, bicycling, or backpacking trips. When gathering pods to eat, be sure that the pod is fully mature but not too old. The pods ripen in late summer and early fall. Immature pods are green or have traces of green. These lack both the flavor and texture of mature pods, and are astringent. Their flavor can be improved by a day or two of natural drying. Older pods may be moldy or insect-infested.
Western readers who have a source of the whole pods may want to try making their own flour. The first step is to remove the hard seeds which are notorious for gumming up grinders. One method of seed removal is to place the washed pods in a pressure cooker at about 15 pounds of pressure for 20 minutes. When cool, they can be split open easily along one seam to remove the seeds. The now soft pods can be cut into small sections and processed in a blender until powdery.
The method that I prefer is to first break open the cleaned pods with a pair of pliers. Once the seeds are removed, the pods can be slowly dried in the oven at a very low heat (pilot light temperature is OK) for about one day. Then, the de-seeded pods are ground in a stone grinder at a coarse setting since carob has a tendency to gum the grinder. Then the coarsely-ground pods are put back in the oven for another day. Once dried more, regrind at a finer setting. Sometimes the carob is suitable to use at this stage, but often a third drying and re-grinding are necessary. I've used this flour with excellent results in various sorts of breads (including carob/acorn bread), cakes, and pancakes.
Once I have de-seeded the carob pods, my wife will often add them to our morning drinks that she make with her VitaMix, which is a 2 horsepower food processor capable of finely grinding carob pods.
If you have no carob growing near you, you can obtain the whole pods from Survival Services, P.O. Box 41834, Los Angeles, CA 90041. A sample package of pods is $4; or you can send a S.A.S.E. and request their price list and availability.
Pasadena, California has approximately 2000 of these showy evergreen trees. These trees are found around Pasadena City Hall, along streets as shade trees, in parks, and school yards. One reason why Pasadena has so many carob trees is because far-sighted Seventh Day Adventists planted them around and on the grounds of all the public schools during the Great Depression. Their hope was that school children would take advantage of this free and nutritious food, a hope that has failed to materialize. The majority of these pods are routinely raked into the trash and gutters. Pasadena's city father's have declared that they would ultimately like to cut down all the carob trees and replace them with carrotwood. Why? Carob trees' roots frequently crack the sidewalks. Then the pedestrians who occasionally trip on these cracks (or who trip on the fallen pods) invariably sue the city for their own clumsiness!

RECIPES


CAROB CAKE -- ideal for birthdays!
1/2 cup raw butter 1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup raw honey 1/3 cup carob powder
1/2 cup blackstrap molasses 2 cups whole wheat flour
1 egg 3/4 cup hot water
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1 cup chopped walnuts
Beat the butter, honey, and molasses. Add the egg and beat. Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl alternately with the hot water. Stir in the walnuts. Pour into a lightly buttered pan (approx. 9" by 9"). Bake at 250 degrees F. in oven for about one hour, or until the cake easily separates from the sides of the pan.

CAROB FROSTING-- for the above cake or brownies
2 tablespoons butter 1/4 cup raw honey
2/3 cup powdered milk 4 tablespoons raw cream
1/3 cup carob powder 1 teaspoon vanilla
Cream the butter, powdered milk, and carob powder. Add the honey and cream and mix well. Add the vanilla and whip until smooth.

HONEY CAROB BROWNIES
1 cup whole wheat flour 1 cup raw honey
1 teaspoon baking powder 2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt ˝ cup chopped nuts
˝ cup butter 1 teaspoon vanilla
˝ cup carob powder
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Then melt the butter in a small pan over low heat. Add carob powder and honey and blend well, removing from the heat. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs and gradually add the carob mixture. Add the dry ingredients and mix well. Blend in the vanilla and nuts. Pour into an oiled 8 inch square pan and bake at 250 degrees for about 45 minutes or until done.

TGS ED Notes: 2 Tbs. Of Pero (grain-based coffee substitute) will give it a rich flavor. Can also be added to frosting.

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