Carob beans come from the carob tree, which is native to the Mediterranean. The tree produces an edible seed pod that has been used in food and drink recipes for thousands of years. In fact, the Talmud and some interpretations of the Bible reference carob as a source if sustenance. In some Christian circles, the carob bean is called St. John's Bread because of the belief that the saint subsisted on them when he was in the wilderness.
The seed pod of the carob tree contains many small beans and a mildly sweet pulp. Because carob has a sweetness to it, it has been traditionally used as a source of sugar and as a sweetener in recipes. In some places it is reduced into a syrup that is used to flavor and glaze foods. Although the carob bean is an edible food for humans, it has also traditionally been used as feed for animals.
When carob is dried or roasted, it has a sweet, slightly bitter taste. It is often converted into powder that can be used in recipes for cakes and cookies. Carob is also available in the form of chips which look identical to dark chocolate chips. Although carob tastes significantly different from chocolate, it is often used as a chocolate substitute in baked goods. Carob chips are also often used in granola, cereals, and trail mixes.
One of the reasons that carob is used as a replacement for chocolate is that it contains no caffeine. Although chocolate only contains a small amount of caffeine, even this small amount can be problematic for people with certain health conditions. Carob is also used as a chocolate substitute in dog treats because chocolate is toxic to dogs.
The carob bean and its many forms have become quite popular in the health food industry. Products made from the carob bean are reported to have numerous health benefits and to be a good source of nutrition. According to health food specialists, carob can improve digestion and lower cholesterol. It is also a rich source of calcium and has been used to treat osteoporosis.
Carob has been used to treat a number of ailments in addition to high cholesterol and osteoporosis. Derivatives of the carob bean have been used to treat diarrhea in both children and adults. It is also sometimes used to treat symptoms of asthma which are brought on by allergies.