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Welcome to the Feature Food Pages

Most people erroneously think that a shift to vegetarianism will mean deprivation. Quite the contrary! There is a world of food out there to be discovered and we'd like to aid in the process. By sticking to a handful of staple foods, you limit your palate and your potential for glowing health Try perusing the aisles of the health food store(s) and fruit/veggie markets near you: you will notice a variety of foods that you have never before tried.

Every month, we will be featuring a little-known food that we hope you will begin incorporating into your eating repertoire. We will keep the foods of the months archived on the site (located at the bottom of this page) in case you wish to refer back, or in case you missed one...shame on you!!


Feature Food:  CAROB


Carob is used as a substitute for chocolate, but what is carob and why is it better than chocolate anyway?

First things first: carob is in the legume family. The carob tree has evergreen leaves with tiny red flowers and pods. The pod is light- to dark-reddish brown, 4 to 12 inches in length and 3/4 to 1 inch wide, glossy, tough and fibrous. It is filled with soft, semi-translucent, pale-brown pulp, and 10 to 13flattened, very hard seeds which are loose in their cells. The ripe pod is sweet when chewed (avoiding the seeds) but the odor of the broken pod is faintly like Limburger cheese because of its 1.3% isobutyric acid content. Although the carob tree is native to the Mediterranean, it is now grown in warm climates throughout the world, including the southern United States.

Now onto carob in its historical role as a foodstuff: Carob pods and beans have been used for food for over 5000 years!! Carob also goes by "St. John's Bread" and locust bean (both due to biblical times, when carob gained a reputation as a staple food. Fast forwarding a few centuries, imported pods used to be regularly sold by street vendors in the Italian section of lower New York City for chewing. In the early 1920's, there was much promotion of carob culture in California, especially allied with the development of arid lands, and there was an onslaught of activity in producing "health food" products from the imported pods. Some of these products are still sold today, especially as substitutes for chocolate.

Non-fleshy and bean-like, the carob is not a fruit, in the food-use sense, although it is referred to as such, in some cases, due to its sweetness. Apart from being chewed as a sweetmeat, carob pods and seed have many and varied uses. The carob pods can be processed to a cocoa -like powder which is added to cold or heated water or non-dairy beverage for drinking (see recipe below). It has been combined with wheat flour in making bread or pancakes. A flour made by beating the seeded pods is high in fiber and has been utilized in breakfast foods. The finer flour is also made into confections, especially candy bars. The pods, coarsely ground and boiled in water yield a thick, honey-like sirup, or molasses.

The seeds constitute 10 to 20% of the pod. They yield a tragacanth-like gum (manogalactan), called in the trade "Tragasol", which is an important commercial stabilizer and thickener in bakery goods, ice cream, salad dressings, sauces, cheese, salami, bologna, canned meats and fish, jelly, mustard, and other food products. The seed residue after gum extraction can be made into a starch- and sugar-free flour of 60% protein content for diabetics. In Germany, the roasted seeds have served as a substitute for coffee. In Spain, they have been mixed with coffee.

Candy or other sweet products made with carob are most often found in health food stores, and some people think carob is a healthier choice. Carob does not contain the alkaloids, having the effect of caffeine, which are found in chocolate. While the fat in chocolate - cocoa butter - is highly saturated, many studies show that this fat does not raise serum cholesterol. Any type of fat may be added to carob, and the total fat and calorie counts are usually identical to those of a chocolate bar. There is nothing wrong with carob as a substitute for chocolate, but it is not healthier. Nutritionally, both are snacks that should be consumed sparingly.

Food Value Per 100 g of Carob Flour
Calories180
Moisture11.2 g
Protein4.5 g
Fat1.4 g
Carbohydrates*80.7 g
Fiber7.7 g
Ash2.2 g
Calcium352 mg
Phosphorus81 mg

Carob "Cocoa" Plain A cup of hot Carob "Cocoa" is quite a nice treat, especially for those who are trying to avoid eating chocolate. It is thick and "creamy". And since Carob is much sweeter than Cocoa, you may not need to add any sweetener; by itself, it tastes like bittersweet chocolate. In fact, since we started making it, we prefer it to trying to make the traditional cocoa without milk.

Ingredients for each cup:

  • 1 heaping Tbsp. Carob powder
  • tsp. Corn Starch
  • 6-8 oz. Water
  • Vanilla to taste
  • Stevia or other sweetener (Optional)
Mix the Carob powder and corn starch in the water until smooth. Heat the ingredients, stirring occasionally, and serve with a little vanilla. YUM!


Archived Feature Profiles:

Avocado
Durian
Stevia
Nutritional Yeast
Amaranth


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