Posted by & filed under Animal Forage, Food Forests, Food Plants - Perennial, Seeds, Trees.

PIJ #58, March-May 1996

by Frances Lang

Carob, or St John’s Bread, is known in the botanical world as Ceratonia siliqua from the Caesalpiniaceae family. It is a small to medium sized, long-lived evergreen tree with dense foliage. Leaves are glossy, green, round and leathery, new growth is bronze coloured. Trees are single sexed and so will need a male and female tree to produce pods. One male tree can pollinate about 10-20 females. It is an excellent fire barrier as its leaves burn very poorly.

The fruit is a dark brown flattened pod, 13-30cm long and about 2.5cm wide. It contains a sweet, chocolate tasting pulp and several bean-like seeds. Sugar content can be higher than 50 percent in varieties harvested for direct human consumption. The pods are harvested in autumn and it can take 6-7 years for a tree to produce pods. A 25 year old tree can produce 125kg of beans. Carobs are native to the Mediterranean but have enormous potential for landcare in Australia. They are drought resistant and enjoy dry, rocky sites and tolerate any soil except heavy clay. They are very tolerant of salt.

The carob can be eaten fresh or roasted or ground to powder. The tree’s uses include; animal fodder for sheep, goats and donkeys, bee forage, windbreaks, shade and industrial use. It can even be used to treat diarrhoea in humans and animals. The seeds are 35 percent gum which is used for adhesive and many food manufacturing processes such as cream cheese or ice-cream.

Planting

Seeds require scarification or boiling water treatment followed by three days soak to aid germination. The seeds should be sown in spring or summer in individual tree tubes or recycled milk cartons. The potting mix should be sandy and free draining. Transplant seedlings when they are 8-10cm high to reduce damage to the delicate tap roots.

While carob can be used to make a powerful liqueur it is generally associated with healthy living. It contains none of the theobromine which is associated with migraines caused in some people by real chocolate.

Processing Carob Powder

Pick and wash the ripe pods and boil in just enough water to cover, or steam until tender. Cooking softens the pods, making splitting them open fairly easy. Remove seeds, cut pods into small pieces and dry well. Put the pieces in a blender and grind into a powder. Process only small amounts at a time.

30 Responses to “The Carob”

  1. Cate Ferguson

    Carob trees! what a brilliant idea. I’ve been looking around for a while for something interesting and useful to put on my western boundary – now i’ve found it. Thanks so much for a great article.

    Reply
  2. Spencer Woodard

    Carob is a fantastic animal forage. The carob seed was the original weight measurement for the carat.

    When transplanting and moving carobs it is beneficial to relocate them with the same north orientation as they had before you moved them.

    It is possible to relocate large mature trees.

    In my experience seeds don’t need to be scarified. Soaking seeds for twenty four hours expedites germination.

    Carob flowers attract honey bees. In areas with healthy bee populations blooming trees will be covered with thousands of bees. Blooming trees have a very distinct aroma.

    Trees are slow growing and very long living.

    Reply
  3. ivan martinovic

    Thank you for such an interesting article.

    My only question is: where can I obtain trees or seeds in or around Melbourne.

    Ivan.

    Reply
    • Don Hosie

      Ihave carob seeds if you would like to contact me c/o general lstore, Hargraves ,NSW.2850

      Reply
  4. Mary

    I’ve been using the carob kibble for three weekd now and my horses are doing fantastic on it, their coats are in great nick and even the fussy ones are eating well now! It really is a great feed.

    Reply
  5. jen hollingbery

    I have a carb tree in the back garden and I’m looking to sell or give away the 100 kilos, that drop every year !

    Reply
  6. Barb

    I just moved to Phoenix, AZ, USA. The home I purchased has a large Carob tree covering the front yard. Not a blade of grass grows under it. Light seems to get under there and I was wondering if the tree puts out something in its roots to keep down competition. If so, what fertilizer can I use to let grass grow there?

    Reply
    • Donna

      Why not try Dichondra grass seeds? Dichondra grass loves to grow in the shade, whereas Bermuda and most others need the sun. Dichondra also does not ever require mowing! Some people hate it, but I think it looks beautiful. Dichondra has those little ‘cone shaped heads’, and stays green year round. What’s not to like about a grass that never needs mowing and stays green year round?

      Reply
  7. Brad Leeger

    Thanks for the good article!

    And some good comments! Please respond to the following:

    1. Where can we buy seeds? (I’ve been trying to communicate with Austrahort with no success)

    2. Do these trees have an allelopathic effect on surrounding plants? This is very important to know for intercropping and agro-forestry. I’ve not yet read about this, but remember seeing the same lack of grass under Carob trees in Pasadena, California, USA. I would like to introduce these trees to Mauritania, West Africa, to be used in fields for animals and widely scattered in crop fields. I need to know if they should stay out of the fields for crops.

    Thanks much!
    Brad

    Reply
  8. Regina Saunders

    Bummer there are no answers to the “where can I buy one?” question, because I’d like to know too. In Australia? My nursery salesperson says she can order one in, but it seems I might need 2 (M + F)? Any recommendations? I”m on the east coast, no frost, not really sub-tropical but seems to be heading that way :)
    Thanks
    Regina

    Reply
  9. Carolyn Payne

    Eden seeds (Lower Beechmont, Australia) sell Carob seeds, they germinate easily, but are very slow growing. I have read that most seedlings will be male and you need to graft females on to them.

    Reply
  10. Chris McLeod

    Hi Regina,

    Try the Diggers Club, CERES nursery or Daleys Nursery. Carobs are quite widely available, although they are considered a bit exotic by some people, plus they grow very well in dry inland climates. There are quite a few examples in the Castlemaine, Victoria botanical gardens. They grow very well here too (a bit further south at higher elevation) and it is much wetter than Castlemaine. You can also buy a tree with both M + F flowers if you look around.
    Regards. Chris

    Reply
  11. JUSTIN. B

    very, very slow growing here in Heidelberg, Australia. N.M.I.T. tafe in Fairfield, Victoria sell them. They have a nursrey with some very interesting trees and shrubs………………….j..

    Reply
  12. Chris McLeod

    Hi Carolyn and Justin,

    CERES in Brunswick, Victoria, Australia has a ripper example of a mature Carob tree which couldn’t have been in the ground that many years. As an observation, it is located right next to the chook runs and also some compost bays so perhaps if your carob trees are slow growing give them a bit of a feeding. I have red clover growing at the base of my carob tree and it seems to be doing very well even during winter which is colder here than where you two are. This is despite the fact that it has also unfortunately been moved three times so far in its life here for all sorts of reasons.

    Regards. Chris

    Reply
  13. Wendy Atkinson

    I have a big carob tree which I planted about 15 years ago (without scarification). It has never produced flowers . I presume it is male & I need to buy a female plant??
    Thankyou.
    Wendy, Northland,
    NZ

    Reply
  14. Paul Martn

    I have a very large Carob Bean tree that produced over 100 ks of beans a year. I am growing some seedlings to sell , as there seems to be a shortage of trees for sale around Perth, W.A. I have dried beans for sale and will have some seedlings in a few months time. eg Mid 2313 onwards. I used to sell my entire crop to a goat farmer in Armadale , but he has since sold his goats. This tree was planted about 35 years ago and there are no other trees nearby so it must be a bisexual tree to not need a mate. My email address is avoboy (at) gmail.com

    Reply
  15. Daryl

    Initially my carob seeds used to rot before they sprouted. Now I get the best germination rate just by rinsing the seeds in bleach and then planting them in sand and then water them in with dilute bleach to sterilise the sand. I have now germinated a few hundred using this method.

    Reply
  16. Frank

    Hi,

    I live on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean sea ( south of Sicily in Europe), and here we have these type of Carrob trees.
    We call them Harruba and they are protected by law.

    If some of you would like the seeds please let me know.
    You have to sown them in spring.

    You have to soak them in boiler water and leave them for 24 hrs.
    Then you sawn them in compost.

    My e-mail is fdagost@gmail.com

    Reply
  17. Kathleen McCormack

    Hello,

    My family live in Perth, Western Australia and I have been growing Carobs from seed for many years with complete success. All plants are growing near York, WA on gravelly soil though the parent trees grow in Perth’s sandy soils. As with Frank from Malta, I soaked the seeds in boiling water for 24hrs then planted 2-3 in potting mix (nothing special) within a one litre ex-milk carton which had pierced holes in bottom for drainage. Watered daily with seedings appearing within 10 days.

    Early seedlings died, after being planted out, either through lack of regular (hand) watering (90km from Perth) or the kangaroos ate them. Since connecting reticulation and erecting chicken wire surrounds we have had only a few losses.

    I have noticed mouse holes very close to each plant which may be contributing to our success in ensuring the water is delivered where it is needed.

    My email is kathymac58@hotmail.com

    Reply
  18. Monkeymich

    Hello Everyone just letting you know about this wonderful little Australian company that sell carob products.http://australiancarobs.com/productinfo.php?pid=201106210422
    You can eat thier pods and save the seeds to grow your own trees. See the store locator on the website. i bought 1 packet of the pods and already have about 30 seeds! The pods taste quite yummy as well. Hope this helps!

    Reply
  19. Christine Costa

    I live near Picton in NSW and want to plant a Sfax and Santa Fe carob tree, but can not find any for sale. Hope someone can help.

    Reply
  20. myrophora Florou

    We have several hundred kilos of Carob pods from our grafted trees and would like to know if there is anywhere in Victoria Australia that we could sell them to.

    Reply
    • Lora

      I understand that a grafted tree is both male & female does that make male/female seeds inside the pods?

      Reply
  21. Paul Martin

    I have just picked quite a few kilos of fresh black Carob Beans and are selling them by the kilo or cheaper in bulk. I am in Carmel, West Australia.and am handy to Perth people. My email address is avoboy (at) gmail.com I also have a few small trees to sell. Off a female tree. I have just one tree and it has great crops each year, so I think the young trees will be the same.

    Reply
  22. Lyn Calvert

    I have 6 bags of carob seeds to give away. They are in Narrogin. Lyn 0403979833 or MARGARET 0431941215

    Reply
  23. Simon

    I currently have many seedlings around an inch or two high still growing in the ground under the very large and old 6-8 mtr tall parent tree which produces heaps of pods each year, my dogs love the pods but leave the seeds so I always have plenty of seeds around if anyone needs any, come and dig your own seedlings straight from the ground right now as I’m not sure what to do with them to give them a chance to become a big tree. I’m in Armadale W.A Please feel free to contact me on 0408105313 or sime237@gmail.com Cheers all. Simon

    Reply

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