Carob bean- healthy food. Algarve’s black gold !

Hi everyone, hope you’re well.

Today, as promised, i am bringing to you some information related to a fruit that grows mostly in southern Portugal where i live.The tree is typical in the southern Portuguese region of the Algarve, where the tree is called alfarrobeira, and the fruit alfarroba. Looking at it hanging from the trees, you may have a first wrong impression: how come the portuguese grow green beans in trees? They also may look like vanilla beans but slightly bigger. Well, right now it is a product that may bring some extra wealth to a region as the Algarve, where tourism plays the main role as far as economy is concerned. Only 3% is the percentage of the importance of agriculture.

What is it ?

But, what is the history behind this interesting legume? Yes, Legumes produce a botanically unique type of fruit – a simple dry fruit that develops from a simple carpel and usually dehisces (opens along a seam) on two sides, that’s why this is considered a legume.

Legumes are notable in that most of them have symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacteria in structures called root nodules. For that reason, they play a key role in crop rotation.

It grows to about 15 m (50 ft) in height and has dark, evergreen, pinnate leaves. The small, red flowers have no petals. The fruit is a brown, leathery pod about 10 to 30 cm (4 to 12 in) long and contains a syrupy to biscuity flesh of an agreeable sweet taste, in which lie a number of seeds. The pods are edible and are often used for livestock feed. The seeds, which are remarkably uniform in size and weight, are thought to have been the original standard carat weight used by jewellers and goldsmiths.

Where does it grow?

Archaeological evidence suggests that these peas must have been grown in the eastern Mediterranean and Mesopotamian regions at least 5,000 years ago.

Carob grows well anywhere that citrus is grown, and it prefers dry climates that receive more than 30 centimeters of rainfall–ideal mediterranean-type climates.

Portugal is the largest producer of carob in the world and more than half of its production is exported. In addition to its socio-economic value, the historic value of this century-old culture is added, particularly striking in the Algarve.

What is it used for?

Every part of the fruit is able to be consumed.

The Italians use the seed to make rosary beads. In Israel they have an annual Carob Festival. This seed was also used as a weight measure for gold and gems because seeds are very even in weight.

That use has come down through the centuries as the ‘caret weight’ (should be carob weight) and 0. 5 carob seeds equals one gram. A caret weight .02 of a gram.

Sometimes you may find it in shape of a chocolate bar, in health food shops . In English, it is also known as “St John’s bread”, as well as “locust tree, because the pods were once thought to have been the “locusts” that were eaten by John the Baptist in the Wilderness.

Apart from the health benefits obtained by substituting Carob for Cocoa and synthetic sweeteners in our diet, Carob also has excellent nutritional value. Along with up to 80% protein, it contains Magnesium, Calcium, Iron, Phosphorus, Potassium Manganese, Barium, Copper, Nickel and the vitamins A, B, B2, B3, and D. It also has medicinal uses including the treatment of coughs and diahhroea.

A significant part of these applications are related to gum extracted from locust bean seed: an additive of biological origin to which no adverse effects are known, E-410, used as a thickener, stabilizer, emulsifier or gelling agent in medicines and foods, including formulas for lactating women, but also in textile and paper printing or cosmetics, for example.

The carob pulp, crushed and roasted, gives rise to carob flour (or carob powder), now recognized as a substitute for cocoa. The carob fart is used to make dozens of food products, including bread, sweets or ice cream.

The crushed are also used in the production of beverages, from liqueurs to spirits and even craft beer. They are also raw material for animal feed, one of its oldest applications, although today it is used in new food solutions for pets .In Faro, where I live, there are some new industries opening up to the use of this special fruit in this field, so thinking already in every pet lovers.

Something new and tasty, apart from healthy to try on your next visit to the Algarve!

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