Me: “Oh my gosh, Carob. I love Carob”.You: “Ekkkkkkk!!! I hate Carob. They used to try and trick us into thinking it was chocolate at school canteen.
Me: “Ah, have you ever had freshly picked, home roasted Carob?”
Me: “Well shuddup-in-your-face, and eat this”.
If you eat carob expecting it to taste exactly like chocolate, you are approaching this healthy alternative in the wrong way. When mixed with milk it makes a delicious chocolate milk type drink which tastes like a combination of milk chocolate, milo, and malt, with fruity, nutty, fragrant notes. I would suggest that you avoid store bought carob products, as there is no comparison with freshly picked and roasted carob. It’s freaking amazing!
So what is carob?
It’s a big ass tree. They usually grow to 8 or 9 meters tall, with a large canopy. They grow in the Mediterranean, so they love hot dry weather and relatively crappy soil. It’s actually a giant legume, and they produce carob pods – or beans – which is the part you eat (pictured above). Carob is often used in permaculture systems because well, theyre awesome, and they do a whole heap of things. Just quickly for those who aren’t so versed in permaculture theory, the idea behind it is that you arrange elements of an ecological system so that they provide for the needs of other organisms, and work together as a happy little living bubble of awesomeness. So, what do they do in permaculture systems?
*provide massive carob crops to use as food for humans, and forage for animals of all kinds including cows, horses, chickens, pics, sheep……….
*Fix atmospheric nitrogen into the soil, feeding other plants and soil microorganisms
*Capture and sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide
*provide nectar for bees and birds
*provide excellent mulch
*reduction of nutrient in water run-off
So whats so good about carob?
Well, firstly, it’s delicious. You use carob in the place of cocoa (coco, cacao) to make cakes, muffins, pudding, chocolate, chocolate milk, sweeteners, flour, natural food thickener and coagulant. It’s quite versatile.
It’s lower in calories, fat, and caffeine than chocolate, it’s higher in protein than chocolate, and contains 3 times the calcium. It’s high in vitamin E, it can help lower cholesterol and is safe for people with diabetes.
I had a lovely time with a bunch of lovely local people who were keen to learn about how it’s made. We went to a local carob tree, and picked pods fresh of the tree, and grabbed the pods which were on the ground but still okay. The tip with picking pods is that you want them to have a slight sheen/gloss to them. This indicated that they are freshly ripened, and not a crop which has been hanging on the tree for 6 months. Pods which are still a tiny bit moist and a little bendy have slightly more moisture in them, are sweeter, and have a better flavor, whereas dull pods indicate that they are a bit old, and not as good. The dull ones are usually full of grubs!
After picking the pods, you need to do a bit of quality control… Using your best concentrating face, rubbing your chin as much as possible while hmm’ming to yourself will assist with the quality control process.
You need to look for holes in the pods. This usually indicates that the pods have little grubs living in them called carob moth funnily enough. Chuck yucky ones in the compost, or if you have a limited amount of pods, the bad bits can be snapped off, and further investigation can be had once the pods have been opened.
The next step is the time consuming one, so it’s good to get a bunch of people to help out and get it done in no time. Very carefully, cut them down the middle, with a sharp knife. I had best results slicing through the thin edge of the pod which exposes the seeds as shown below. Chuck out any pods which have grubs in them, or have powdery dirty dusty stuff in them, as this indicates the presence of carob moth.
Next, remove the seeds. If you like, you can use the seeds to make carob flour. You need pretty gnarly equipment to do that though, because the seeds are REALLY FREAKING HARD. After removing the seeds roughly snap up the pods into small chunks, or kibble, as it’s called in the carob industry.
Put the kibbled carob pods onto a baking tray and spread out in a single layer. Dont over crowd the tray otherwise they wont dry out properly. When i roast carob, i cook it until it’s good and dry, but not turning brown. You don’t want it to brown too much, otherwise it will become bitter.
The whole house will smell delightfully of carob. It’s so delicious! Enjoy the rich aromas.
Allow the pods to cool.
Whiz them up in a food processor, or a good quality blender until they are a fine powder.
After pulverization, sift the powder with various implements. Any big chunky stuff that you sift out can be re-blended and then sifted again. We used about 4 different sieves, all with various sized holes. Essentially, the finer the better.
Once it is very fine, you eat it! Use in the place of coco, make it into brownies, or carob slice, or like one of my helpers – Hannah – put it on your porridge!
Mix two or 3 tablespoons with a cup of warm milk of your choice for a delicious hot chocolate.
Nothing like hand made, freshly roasted carob from a tree down the road. Yum!
Any questions, leave a reply below.