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Ceratonia siliqua

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Ceratonia siliqua, known as the carob (Template:Etymology) tree , St John's bread,<ref>ITIS Report Page: Ceratonia siliqua . accessed 5.11.2011</ref> locust bean<ref>Template:Cite book</ref> (not African locust bean), locust-tree,<ref>Template:Cite book, p. 354 s.v. Khurbet Jala</ref> or carob bush is a flowering evergreen tree or shrub in the pea family, Fabaceae. It is widely cultivated for its edible pods, and as an ornamental tree in gardens. The ripe, dried, and sometimes toasted pod is often ground into carob powder, which is used to replace cocoa powder. Carob bars, an alternative to chocolate bars, as well as carob treats, are often available in health food stores. Carob pods are naturally sweet, not bitter, and contain no theobromine or caffeine.

The carob tree is native to the Mediterranean region, including Southern Europe, Northern Africa, the larger Mediterranean islands, the Levant and Middle-East of Western Asia into Iran; and the Canary Islands and Macaronesia.<ref name="grin">Template:GRIN</ref><ref>Template:Cite web</ref> The carat, a unit of mass for gemstones, and a measurement of purity for gold, takes its name from the Greek word for a carob seed, keration, via the Arabic word, qīrāṭ.<ref>Template:Cite book</ref>

Etymology and history

Illustration of Ceratonia siliqua

The word carob comes from Middle French Template:Lang (modern French Template:Lang), which borrowed it from Arabic Template:Lang (kharrūb, "locust bean pod"),<ref>Oxford English Dictionary , 1st ed. (1888), s.v. 'carob'</ref> ultimately perhaps from Akkadian language Template:Lang or Aramaic kharubha, related to Hebrew harubh.<ref>Template:OEtymD</ref> Ceratonia siliqua, the scientific name of the carob tree, derives from the Greek kerátiοn κεράτιον 'fruit of the carob (from keras κέρας 'horn'), and Latin siliqua 'pod, carob'.

The unit "carat", used for weighing precious metal and stones, also comes from κεράτιον, as alluding to an ancient practice of weighing gold and gemstones against the seeds of the carob tree by people in the Middle East. The system was eventually standardized, and one carat was fixed at 0.2 grams.

In late Roman times, the pure gold coin known as the solidus weighed 24 carat seeds (about 4.5 grams). As a result, the carat also became a measure of purity for gold. Thus, 24-carat gold means 100% pure, 12-carat gold means the alloy contains 50% gold.<ref>Template:OEtymD</ref>

Carob tree


A leaflet of the leaf of the carob tree

The carob tree grows up to Template:Convert tall. The crown is broad and semispherical, supported by a thick trunk with rough brown bark and sturdy branches. Its leaves are Template:Convert long, alternate, pinnate, and may or may not have a terminal leaflet. It is frost-tolerant to roughly Template:Convert.

Most carob trees are dioecious and some are hermaphroditic, so strictly male trees do not produce fruit.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> When the trees blossom in autumn, the flowers are small and numerous, spirally arranged along the inflorescence axis in catkin-like racemes borne on spurs from old wood and even on the trunk (cauliflory); they are pollinated by both wind and insects. The male flowers smell like human semen, an odor that is caused in part by amines.<ref>Template:Cite</ref>

The fruit is a legume (also known commonly, but less accurately, as a pod), that is elongated, compressed, straight, or curved, and thickened at the sutures. The pods take a full year to develop and ripen. When the sweet ripe pods eventually fall to the ground, they are eaten by various mammals, such as swine, thereby dispersing the hard inner seed in the excrement.

The seeds of the carob tree contain leucodelphinidin, a colourless chemical compound related to leucoanthocyanidins.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>


Carob tree
A large carob tree in Sardinia, Italy

Although cultivated extensively, carob can still be found growing wild in eastern Mediterranean regions, and has become naturalized in the west.<ref name=ipgri/>

The tree is typical in the southern Portuguese region of the Algarve, where the tree is called alfarrobeira, and the fruit alfarroba. It is also seen in southern Spain (Template:Lang-es), Catalonia and Valencia (Template:Lang-ca), Malta (Template:Lang-mt), on the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia (Template:Lang-it), in Southern Croatia (Template:Lang-hr), and in Southern Greece, Cyprus, as well as on many Greek islands such as Crete and Samos. The common Greek name is Template:Lang (translit. Template:Transl), or Template:Lang (translit. Template:Transl, meaning "wooden horn"). In Turkey, it is known as "goat's horn" (Template:Lang-tr).<ref name=ipgri/><ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

The various trees known as algarrobo in Latin America (Albizia saman in Cuba, Prosopis pallida in Peru and four species of Prosopis in Argentina and Paraguay) belong to a different subfamily, Mimosoideae of the Fabaceae. They were named algarrobo after the carob tree by early Spanish settlers because they also produce pods with sweet pulp.


Ripe carob fruit pods on the tree

The carob genus, Ceratonia, belongs to the legume family, Fabaceae, and is believed to be an archaic remnant of a part of this family now generally considered extinct. It grows well in warm temperate and subtropical areas, and tolerates hot and humid coastal areas. As a xerophyte (drought-resistant species), carob is well adapted to the conditions of the Mediterranean region with just Template:Convert of rainfall per year.<ref name=ipgri/>

Carob trees can survive long periods of drought, but to grow fruit, they need Template:Conv of rainfall per year.<ref name=ipgri/> They prefer well-drained, sandy loams and are intolerant of waterlogging, but the deep root systems can adapt to a wide variety of soil conditions and are fairly salt-tolerant (up to 3% in soil).<ref name="ipgri">Template:Cite bookTemplate:Page needed</ref> After being irrigated with saline water in the summer, carob trees could possibly recover during winter rainfalls.<ref name="Correia">Template:Cite journal</ref> In some experiments, young carob trees were capable of basic physiological functions under high salt conditions (40 mmol NaCl/l).<ref name="Correia"/>

Not all legume species can develop a symbiotic relationship with rhizobia to make use of atmospheric nitrogen. It remains unclear if carob trees have this ability: Some findings suggest that it is not able to form root nodules with rhizobia,<ref name=ipgri/> while in another more recent study, trees have been identified with nodules containing bacteria believed to be from the Rhizobium genus.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> However, a study measuring the 15N-signal (isotopic signature) in the tissue of the carob tree did not support the theory that carob trees naturally use atmospheric nitrogen.<ref name=LaMalfa>Template:Cite journal</ref>

Cultivation and orchard management

The vegetative propagation of carob is naturally restricted due to its low adventitious rooting potential, which could be improved by using better grafting techniques, such as air layering.<ref name=guguay>Template:Cite journal</ref> Therefore, seeds are still widely used as the propagation medium. The sowing occurs in pot nurseries in early spring and the cooling- and drying-sensitive seedlings are then transplanted to the field in the next year after the last frost. Carob trees enter slowly into production phase. Where in areas with good growing conditions, the cropping starts 3–4 years after budding, the nonbearing period can take up to 8 years in regions with marginal soils. Full bearing of the trees occurs mostly at a tree-age of 20–25 years where the yield stabilizes.<ref name=ipgri /> The orchards are traditionally planted in low densities around 25–45 trees/hectare. Hermaphrodite plants or male trees, which produce fewer or no pods, respectively, are usually planted in lower densities in the orchards as pollenizers.

Intercropping with other tree species is widely spread. Not much cultivation management is required. Only light pruning and occasional tilling to reduce weeds is necessary. Nitrogen-fertilizing of the plants has been shown to have positive impacts on yield performance.<ref name=ipgri /> Although it is native to moderately dry climates, two or three summers irrigation greatly aid the development, hasten the fruiting, and increase the yield of a carob tree.<ref>Template:Cite book</ref>

Map of carob crop volumes
Crop volumes of cultivated carob in the Mediterranean countries

Harvest and postharvest treatment

The most labour-intensive part of carob cultivation is harvesting, which is often done by knocking the fruit down with a long stick and gathering them together with the help of laid-out nets. This is a delicate task because the trees are flowering at the same time and care has to be taken not to damage the flowers and the next year's crop. The literature recommends research to get the fruit to ripen more uniformly or also for cultivars which can be mechanically harvested (by shaking).<ref name=ipgri />

After harvest, carob pods have a moisture content of 10–20% and should be dried down to a moisture content of 8% so the pods do not rot. Further processing separates the kernels (seeds) from the pulp. This process is called kibbling and results in seeds and pieces of carob pods (kibbles). Processing of the pulp includes grinding for animal feed production or roasting and milling for human food industry. The seeds have to be peeled which happens with acid or through roasting. Then the endosperm and the embryo are separated for different uses.<ref name="ipgri" />

Pests and diseases

Only a few pests are known to cause severe damage in carob orchards, so they have traditionally not been treated with pesticides. Some generalist pests such as the larvae of the leopard moth (Zeuzera pyrina L.), the dried fruit moth (Cadra calidella), small rodents such as rats (Rattus spp.) and gophers (Pitymys spp.) can cause damage occasionally in some regions. Only some cultivars are severely susceptible to mildew disease (Oidium ceratoniae C.). One pest directly associated with carob is the larva of the carob moth (Myelois ceratoniae Z.), which can cause extensive postharvest damage.<ref name=ipgri/>

Cadra calidella attack carob crops before harvest and infest products in stores. This moth, prevalent in Cyprus, will often infest the country’s carob stores. Research has been conducted to understand the physiology of the moth, in order to gain insight on how to monitor moth reproduction and lower their survival rates, such as through temperature control, pheromone traps, or parasitoid traps.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>

Carob production – 2016
Country (tonnes)
40,385 F
26,185 F
22,032 F
F, FAO estimate. Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization<ref name="fao16">Template:Cite web</ref>

Cultivars and breeding aims

Most of the roughly 50 known cultivars<ref name=ipgri/> are of unknown origin and only regionally distributed. The cultivars show high genetic and therefore morphological and agronomical variation.<ref name=ipgri/> No conventional breeding by controlled crossing has been reported, but selection from orchards or wild populations has been done. Domesticated carobs (C. s. var. edulis) can be distinguished from their wild relatives (C. s. var. silvestris) by some fruit-yielding traits such as building of greater beans, more pulp, and higher sugar contents. Also, genetic adoption of some varieties to the climatic requirements of their growing regions has occurred.<ref name=ipgri/> Though a partially successful breaking of the dioecy happened, the yield of hermaphroditic trees still cannot compete with that of female plants, as their pod-bearing properties are worse.<ref name=zoha>Template:Cite journal</ref> Future breeding would be focused on processing-quality aspects, as well as on properties for better mechanization of harvest or better-yielding hermaphroditic plants. The use of modern breeding techniques is restricted due to low polymorphism for molecular markers.<ref name=ipgri/>


In 2016, world production of carob was 158,609 tonnes, led by Portugal, with 25% of the world total. Italy, Spain, and Morocco were the next major producers (see table).<ref name=fao16/>



Template:Multiple image Carob products consumed by humans come from the dried, and sometimes roasted, pod, which has two main parts: the pulp accounts for 90% and the seeds for 10% by weight.<ref name=ipgri/><ref name=Droste>Template:Cite book</ref> Carob pulp is sold as flour or "chunks".<ref name="Droste" /> The flour of the carob embryo or seed can be used in human and animal nutrition,<ref name="ipgri" /> but the seed is often discarded before making carob powder.

Carob pods are mildly sweet on their own and are used in powdered, chip, or syrup form as an ingredient in cakes and cookies, sometimes as a substitute for chocolate in recipes. In Malta, a traditional sweet eaten during Lent and Good Friday is made from carob pods. Dried carob fruit is traditionally eaten on the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

The production of locust bean gum, a thickening agent used in the food industry, is the most important use of carob seeds economically (and now of the carob tree as a whole). Locust bean gum is used as a thickening agent, stabilizer, gelling agent, or as a substitute for gluten in low-calorie products. If galactomannans are mixed with other gelling substances such as carrageenan, they can be used to thicken the liquid part of food. This is used extensively in canned food for animals to get the jellied texture.<ref name="Droste" />

Locust bean gum is produced from the endosperm, which accounts for 42–46% of the carob seed and is rich in galactomannans (88% of endosperm dry mass). Galactomannans are hydrophilic and swell in water. To make Template:Conv of locust bean gum, Template:Conv of carob seeds are needed, which must come from roughly Template:Conv of carob pod fruit.

For animals

While chocolate contains the chemical compound theobromine in levels that are toxic to some mammals, carob contains none, and it also has no caffeine, so it is sometimes used to make chocolate-like treats for dogs.<ref name="Craig1984">Template:Cite journal</ref><ref>Template:Cite book</ref><ref>Template:Cite book</ref> Carob pod meal is also used as an energy-rich feed for livestock, particularly for ruminants, though its high tannin content may limit this use.<ref name="feedipedia">Template:Cite web</ref>

Historically, carob pods were mainly used for animal fodder in the Maltese Islands, apart from times of famine or war, when they formed part of the diet of many Maltese people. On the Iberian Peninsula, carob pods were historically fed to donkeys.


The pulp of a carob pod is about 48–56% sugars and 18% cellulose and hemicellulose.<ref name="ipgri" /> Some differences in sugar (sucrose) content are seen between wild and cultivated carob trees: ~531 g/kg dry weight in cultivated varieties and ~437 g/kg in wild varieties. On the other hand, fructose and glucose levels do not differ between cultivated carob and wild ones.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> The embryo (20-25% of the seed's weight) is rich in proteins (50%). The testa or seed coat (30–33% of the seed's weight) consists of cellulose, lignin, and tannin.<ref name="Droste" />

Syrup and drinks

Maltese carob liqueur

Carob pods are about ~1/3 to 1/2 sugar by weight, and this sugar can be extracted into a syrup.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> In Malta, a carob syrup (ġulepp tal-ħarrub) is made out of the pods. Carob syrup is also used in Crete, and Cyprus exports it.Template:Citation needed

Carob drinks are traditionally imbibed during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The crushed pods may be used to make a beverage; carob is used for compote, liqueur, and syrup in Turkey, Malta, Portugal, Spain, and Sicily.Template:Citation needed In Libya, carob syrup (called rub) is used as a complement to asida (made from wheat flour).Template:Citation needed The so-called "carob syrup" made in Peru is actually from the fruit of the Prosopis nigra tree.Template:Citation needed Because of its strong taste, carob syrup is sometimes flavored with orange or chocolate.Template:Citation needed


Carob tree in Jerusalem

The carob tree is widely cultivated in the horticultural nursery industry as an ornamental plant for Mediterranean climates and other temperate regions around the world, being especially popular in California and Hawaii. The plant develops a sculpted trunk and the form of an ornamental tree after being "limbed up" as it matures, otherwise it is used as a dense and large screening hedge. If one does not care about the size of the fruit harvest, the plant is very drought tolerant, and so it is used in xeriscape landscape design for gardens, parks, and public municipal and commercial landscapes.<ref name="grin" />


Template:Unreferenced section In some areas of Greece, viz. Crete, carob wood is largely used as a fuelwood, being sold at fuelwood yards. It's a very good fuel and sometimes preferred over oak and olive wood. Because the much fluted stem usually shows heart rot it is rarely used for construction timber. However, it is sought for ornamental work sometimes and, since the natural shape of the fluted stem lends itself to it, specifically for furniture design. Given the sometimes extremely wavy grain of the wood that gives it very good resistance to splitting, sections of Carob bole are suitable for chopping blocks for splitting wood.Template:Clear


See also


  • Ratti (a seed from which the Indian measure unit "tola" derived)



External links

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