The carob (Ceratonia siliqua L., 1753) is an evergreen tree, mostly dioic (mostly with plants with only male flowers and trees with only female flowers) and rarely monophonic (with plants having flowers of both sexes). It forms Olea-ceratonion’s phytosociological association with Olea europaea.
From a systematic point of view Carrubo belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, the Kingdom Plantae, the Tracheobionta Subordination, the Spermatophyta Division, the Magnoliophyta Division, the Magnoliopsida Class, the Rosidae Subclass, the Fabales Order, the Fabaceae Family, the Caesalpinioideae Subfamily, the Cassieae Tribes and then the Genera Ceratonia and Species C Siliqua.
The name of the genus comes from the Greek “kéras” horn and “téno” I shield: horn protruded, probably in reference to the morphology and the consistency of the fruit; The specific name from the Latin “siliqua” = pod, always with reference to the fruits.
Carrubo’s common name seems to be due to the influence of the Arabs calling this “charruba” plant. In England it is named “St. John’s bread “, that is, bread of St. John, because in a passage of the Bible it is said that the saint, being in the desert, could survive nourishing locusts, which according to many would be locusts. This, as is known, is erroneous, since St. John ate the migratory locust, but the name remained.
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Carrubo is a spontaneous plant of the Mediterranean basin, we find it from Portugal to Morocco, in the arid areas of this region. In Italy it is spontaneous in the southern regions while it is native to Tuscany and north of this, where it is rare. The Carubbo is native to the southern basin of the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor; Has expanded with cultivation in all Mediterranean countries in the climaxic horizon of evergreen sclerofile, characterizing it with Olea europaea L.- Olivo, the hottest band of the Olio-Ceratonieto.
A.A. Claim that Carrubo arrived in Italy in the Middle Ages, through Spain, where he had been taken by the Arabs. Its presence in the spontaneous state, for example in Sicily, is considered to be the insolvitation of cultivated forms. According to other A.A. Has a much older history and the presence of spontaneous forms and typical plant associations with other native plants, confirm the native species of the species in southern Italy.
The habitat of this species, lucivaga and thermophilus, although not very related to the nature of the substrate, is that of lime calcareous terrain and dry stations; Spots, garlands, especially close to the coast; We can find it up to 600 m s.l.m ..
Ceratonia siliqua is an arboreal spruce tree species, branched up. Some specimens can reach a height of 10 m.
It has a vigorous stem, with a gray-brown bark, slightly cracked.
It has composed leaves, partially matched, with 2-5 pairs of robust, coriaceous, elliptical-obovate shades of dark green shining above, clearer in the lower, with full margins.
The carob flowers are fairly small, greenish, with papillary corolla; These are formed on short rays linear to the leaves of the leaves.
The fruits, called carrube or butteran, are large pods, called “lozenges” long 10 to 20 cm long, thick and pale, first of pale green color, and then dark brown maturation. These have a very hard outer surface, with fleshy, pasty and sugary pulp that hardens with the drying process. Within these, we find dark, crumpled and flattened seeds, very hard, very homogeneous in weight, called “carats” since they were used in the past as a measure of gold, since they are considered of constant weight.
Fruits are very persistent, so on the same tree there may be, at the same time, “dried” fruits of brown color and immature fruits of green color.
For the cultivation technique consult the present sheet.
Uses and Traditions –
The carob is one of the mulberry plants and honey can be obtained, but only in areas where a number of plants are present.
It is appreciated in the regions of origin for the shadow of the hairs; In fact, preserving a very thick foliage, produces shadow areas, precious in arid places.
Part of the chocolate substitutes are obtained from pasta or carrube seeds.
Many thickeners and gelling agents for food products are obtained from locust bean seeds.
In diets, carob powder is indicated as an alternative to chocolate because it contains only 180 calories per 100 g and is sweet and confusing like chocolate which however has much more calories than 300 calories per 100 g. It also does not contain exciting substances such as theobromine which instead has cocoa and therefore is healthier. Rich in fiber is indicated in slimming diets because it sages and is also important for regulating intestinal functions.
It is a pity that carob is a forgotten fruit that evokes in many people, especially if they are old, images of poverty and deprivation. While it is true that this fruit has helped feed the most desperate populations since the dawn of civilization, especially during periods of famine and wars, it is equally true that it has many qualities that make it a precious food even today.
The locusts are rich in Vitamin A, D and Vitamin B, they contain many minerals including calcium, potassium, manganese and copper.
The locusts are rich in calcium an important mineral for the health of the bones and generally of the human body.
Their sweetness is due to fruit sugars that have in abundance from 46 to 56%. More than half of these sugars are made up of sucrose, the rest is fructose and glucose, they also have 5% protein and 6% fibers while they are fat.
Carob contains powerful antioxidant polyphenols known to counter free radicals and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Some medical research has shown how the intake of carob powder can help reduce high cholesterol.
If the consumption of fresh mozzarella pulp has a mild laxative action consuming the dried pulp or flour it is useful to regulate intestinal functions and counteract the diarrhea.
Fiber and tannins in the flour help eliminate the toxins responsible for acute diarrhea attacks because, unlike what happens to tannins of most other plants, those of the carob dissolve in water.
Additionally, tannins prevent harmful bacterial growth in the intestines while natural sugars help to soften soft stools.
The rich calcium and phosphorus carob contributes to prevent osteoporosis and enriches the body with these two important minerals.
The locusts do not contain gluten and therefore can be safely consumed even by celiac patients
The locusts and their dust are healthy foods because the plant being rustic does not need special treatments.
Carob seed flour is a natural, excellent thickener and stabilizer used in various foods as a gluten substitute for both human and animal nutrition. From this flour is obtained the carob gum which is the most important use of the carob fruits to this day. In canned food for pets often, to get the gelatinous consistency, is put of carrot seeds flour.
Nowadays (seeds private) are used for feeding livestock. One time they were used as fermenting material for the production of ethyl alcohol. As used in popular tradition, the seeds, floured, were used as anti-diarrheal. The fruits are preserved for a long time and can be consumed, commonly, fresh or dried or, alternatively, slightly passed to the oven.
Semi-hard seeds are inedible; They can be grinded, thus obtaining a multi-purpose flour that contains a very large amount of carob, which has the ability to absorb water in quantities of 100 times its weight.
Since the seeds were considered to be particularly uniform in size and weight, the name of the unit of measurement (carat) in use for the precious stones, equivalent to a fifth of grams, was derived from their Arabic name (qīrāṭ or “karat”). In fact, the variation in the weight of the carob seeds, taken in bulk, reaches 25%.
Typically, in very long-lived plants, the appearance of the so-called carrot mushroom (Laetiporus sulphureus), after the first rains of August, appeared. Although consumed in certain areas of Sicily and Basilicata, it is a toxic fungus, which can cause unpleasant gastrointestinal disturbances.
Carob wood, by its hardness, was used for the manufacture of wood-impregnated tools and machinery.
In phytotherapy, the dry extract of the fruit can be used, together with the ginger, in the irritable bowel to the diarrhea. Due to the high content of tannins, fruit pulp may have an irritating effect if taken in large quantities.
The origins of the carob are so ancient that they are traced back to the end of the last ice age; 12,000 years ago.
Its origin from several scholars is located in the areas that today correspond to the territory of Syria and Israel although some of them believe that the carob is originally from the Yemen territory whose warm and arid plains represent a habitat very suitable for this species . By the time this imposing tree has spread throughout the Mediterranean basin.
Before the carob began to grow its fruits were known and appreciated by the ancient Mesopotamian populations that inhabited the Middle East area today referred to as Iraq. The locusts served to produce fruit juices and sweets, their juice was also used as a medicine. In texts dating back thousands of years ago is mentioned the carob, which is also quoted in the Jewish Talmud in a parable of altruism called “Honi and the Carob”.
Tell this parable that one day the wise Honi went for a walk and saw a man who planted a carob. He asked, “How long will it take for this tree to bear fruit? The man replied “Seventy years” Honi then said to him, “Are you sure that in seventy years will you still be?” “No, I’m not sure,” replied the man. “However, I’m not planting this tree for me but for my sons”.
Even in the New Testament is remembered the carob and its fruits. In fact, in the Gospel of Luke, where the parable of the “Prodigal Son” is told, the locusts are mentioned. The protagonist of the parable, alone and hungry after leaving his father’s house, thinks with nostalgia and would like to have to feed the locusts that in the paternal home were given to the pigs.
The use of the fruits of this tree is so ancient that carob seeds and pods were found in Egyptian tombs. So the ancient Egyptians knew this plant even though they probably did not cultivate it but picked it up from wild specimens.
The beginning of cultivation of the carob is made up to about 4000 years ago. The ancient Greeks began cultivating and spreading them in Greece and southern Italy. Even the ancient Romans knew this tree and its fruits and tasted the sweet carob mullet. However, it was only in the Middle Ages that the carrots cultivated knew its greatest popularity by the Arabs who were the major exporters and enthusiasts. Spread this plant along the coast of North Africa and east of Spain.
Later the cultivation of the carob rose even in the south of Portugal and France. In the Middle Ages, the use of locust beans spread in Europe and were appreciated both as a source of food for men and animals and as an important drug. In all the territories the Arabs had occupied in Africa and the Middle East, the carob and its fruits were kept in great care both for disease and nutrition.
At that time it was difficult to preserve the food and the importance of this food was due to the fact that the dried locust cells were preserved for months providing an indispensable intake of sugars, vitamins and proteins. The food that could be stored was rare, especially for the poorer part of the population who could not have spices, oil and salt rooms reserved for the people only for its storage.
In 1800, the carrots cultivation was so widespread in Southern Italy that these precious pods were exported in Central Europe to Russia.
In the mid-1800s, Spanish missionaries introduced the carob plant in the Americas, Mexico and Southern California. From here, the carob farming has spread even in other neighboring states, in all those places where the mild climate allowed its cultivation.
If in other parts of the world, especially in Africa and Asia, the carob is cultivated mainly for its pods, locusts, in America this beautiful tree is particularly appreciated as an ornamental plant. Because of its rusticity and beauty it is used not only as a unique exemplary but also in the tree trunk.
In South America, however, the carob, always carried by Spanish missionaries, serves as a livestock feed, appreciated for its properties and its energy value.
They were the English that spread this plant so useful in the rest of the world, in South Africa, Australia and Asia and today the carob is found in all those areas of the planet that have a warm and arid climate.
In Italy, the carob farming was taught by the Arabs during their domination that began in the Middle Ages and lasted for 200 years, beyond the year 1000.
Even after the Arabs left our country, the carob thrived in southern Italy and today the carob grow is a flourishing and growing crop.
Italy is, after Spain, the second nation in the world to produce locust beans with its 30,800 tons produced, followed by Portugal, Greece, Morocco, Turkey and Cyprus.
With its 5,100 metric tons of locust, this island, Cyprus, has a high production that is linked to its millennial tradition of cultivating this plant. For many rural areas in Cyprus, carrube is the main source of income and is described as “the black gold of Cyprus” for their importance.
Returning to Italy, Sicily has the merit of having the most extensive and productive carobs grown especially in the provinces of Ragusa, Syracuse and Agrigento. The province of Ragusa covers about 70% of the national production and here are most of the industries that turn the carrube into flour and other products sought by the food industry, especially the confectionery.
The finished product, especially carrube flour, is exported all over the world where it receives the appreciation of the experts. Used as stabilizer is found in many food products, from sauces to condiments, sweets and ice creams.
Preparation Method –
As for human nutrition, carob gum is used in the confectionery industry and in the food industry.
This ingredient, labeled with the E410, has the ability to absorb liquid up to 50-100 times its weight and is therefore an excellent and natural thickener.
This type of rubber is also used in the cosmetics industry, in pharmaceuticals, in detergents, in adhesives and in the textile industry.
The sweet pulp of this fruit, known from the earliest antiquity, is nutritious enough for certain peoples to make a major part of their life once.
The fresh flesh is very pleasant and has a slightly laxative effect; Dry, on the contrary, is astringent. From the fermentation it is possible to obtain alcohol, while the seeds provide clothes and industrial use tires. In addition, animal feed is prepared with locust beans; From bark and leaves can extract tannins.
The carob not only consumes the pulp of its many fruits, even its seeds, appropriately ground, give a sweet and protein flour that is used as a thickener and as a sweetener.
The infusion derived from this fruit served in antiquity to cure many diseases, was used to calm the cough, soothe the sore throat and lighten the voice.
Of this beneficial sugar juice make use of the Arabs to refine and strengthen after the ritual fast of Ramadan.
And it is a drink easy to produce just leave the broken locusts in cold water for a few hours to get a sweet and vivifying drink.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. The Health of the Lord’s Pharmacy, Tips and Experiences with Medicinal Herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (eds.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
Caution: Pharmaceutical applications and surgical uses are indicated for information purposes only; they are not prescription-related in any way; Therefore, no liability is accepted for their use for any aesthetic or food purpose.