The carob tree (ceratonia siliqua l.) is widely cultivated in the Mediterranean and considered essential for the vegetation, for both economic and environmental reasons.
Global production is estimated around 160,000 t per year from around 80,000 ha of cultivated land.
The fruit is an elongated straight or curved pod and about 10-30 cm long, 1.5-3.5 cm wide, and about 1 cm thick. Once ripe, the pods are of brown colour and quite wrinkly surface.
The fruit consists of two major parts: pulp and seeds. The pulp has a high level of sugar (about half, mainly sucrose, glucose, and fructose). It also contains about 18% cellulose and hemicellulose. Ripe pods contain a considerable amount of condensed tannins, typically between 16% and 20% of dry weight.
The seeds, in turn, are usually exploited for the production of carob bean gum or locust bean gum. It is added as thickener, stabiliser, or simply for flavouring food. Locust bean gum is furthermore widely used for pharmaceutical purposes – research indicates inhibitive effects against gastrointestinal diseases.
Carob pods are indeed very healthy: They are an excellent source of bioactive compounds, such as dietary fiber, polyphenols, cyclitols. Moreover, they contain a very low amount of fat and can even be used as cocoa substitute since they do not contain any caffeine or theobromine.