November 28, 2008

You Ask, I Answer: Carob

Can you tell me what, exactly, carob is?

I bought the wrong bag of trail mix by accident today and it has almonds, raisins, cashews, and carob.

The taste is okay. I just don't know what I'm eating!

-- Ray Amila
New York, NY

Although carob is a popular vegan substitute for milk chocolate, it is actually a legume!

It is made from the pulp of the pods of an evergreen tree indigenous to the Mediterranean Sea region (although it is now grown in many parts of the world.)

In some countries, like Israel, it is common to dunk the pods in hot water for about thirty seconds (just enough to soften them) and chew on them as a snack.

In the United States, carob pods are usually roasted, ground into powder, and then used to make things like carob chips (which can then go into vegan cookies, or used as toppings for vegan ice cream.)

I should note, though, that not ALL carob products are vegan. Some carob manufacturers add milk solids to them, so always be sure to read the ingredient label.

Some people seek out carob because it is naturally caffeine-free.

Others like it because it is a cocoa powder substitute that offers a good dose of calcium.

Two tablespoons of carob powder, for instance, provides almost a tenth of the mineral's daily recommended intake (that same amount of cocoa powder only provides one percent.)

So don't worry, you're not eating some sort of Frankenfood!

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