Carob (Ceratonia siliqua) is the fruit of the carob tree and grows as long, slightly curved, thick, dark brown pods anywhere from 4-10 inches (10-25 cm) in length.
Although it does tend to turn recipes a dark chocolatey color, it does not quite have the same flavor as chocolate in our opinion.
Raw carob is subtly sweet and not at all bitter with a pleasant almost caramel-like taste. And, unlike the cacao bean, it doesn't require as much sweetener when used in traditionally prepared carob desserts like fudge, puddings, drinks, pies or cookies.
You can actually eat fresh ripe carob pods straight from the tree, just make sure to look out for the tiny hard seeds which are not edible in their unprocessed state. Fresh pods are the best and most nutritious form of carob.
These deseeded dried carob pods can also be used to make fresh raw carob powder, which is sometimes hard to find in stores.
Carob trees are very hardy, robust evergreens that can be found growing in many parts of the world, sometimes in the wild, but are also common as rural landscape trees.
There are many cultivars of the carob tree all with slightly varied characteristics.
Just like there are different kinds of apples, there are different kinds of carob. In Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean Sea, they have Honey Carob which produces a soft textured pod and is known to ooze a dark syrup.
From a nutritional standpoint, carob is rich in a number of vitamins and minerals, but is known to be particularly high in calcium. Being a member of the legume family it is a source of protein and contains a substantial amount of dietary fiber. Throughout history carob has been used as a digestive aid and was traditionally used to soothe an upset stomach.
Carob contains some antioxidants, mostly in the form of polyphenols.
It has alkalizing effects on body pH and in certain cultures it is considered to be an aphrodisiac.