Foraging Friday: Carob

Welcome to a special foraging edition of foliage Friday!

The Moosewood cookbook, which I’ve been using a lot lately, has a recipe for Iced Carob Brownies. Carob is a “substitute” for chocolate for people who can’t or don’t want to eat chocolate for whatever reason. I say “chocolate” in quotes because it doesn’t really taste like chocolate…it just kind of looks like chocolate.

Although, I’ve eaten carob chips before, I don’t really know what carob is. A quick google search leads me to the wikipedia page on carob which shows this:

Aha! I’ve seen this tree before. I know those dry, brown pods! They’re not uncommon here in Palo Alto.

This tree is Ceratonia siliqua, also known as the carob tree, an evergreen tree (or shrub) native to the Mediterranean. It’s drought tolerant and hardy down to USDA zone 9 (so, I probably shouldn’t try to grow it in Oregon, but it’s quite happy in California). The brown pods are in the legume family. The flesh of the pods is edible and can be dried, roasted, and ground into carob powder.

Fun fact: people used to use carob seeds to weigh diamonds, other gemstones, and gold, and this is how we get the term “carat” (as in a “4-carat diamond ring”). Carob seeds are very uniform in size, so they were a good unit of measurement before there were standard measurements. Today, 1 carat is 200 milligrams.

Image source: here

Although carob pods usually ripen in the fall, it was pretty easy to find carob trees still loaded with pods in February. I found a block of them downtown.

There were tons of pods littering the ground beneath the tree, but plenty still on the tree.

I shook some of the low hanging branches and more pods fell down.

You can see new green pods on this tree as well as the ripe brown ones

I’m planning to soak these pods to remove the seeds, roast the pods, and grind them into a powder that I can use in the carob brownies.

If I can find some carob powder at the store, I’ll do a side-by-side comparison of foraged vs store bought carob, but I’m having trouble finding a grocery store that sells it.

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