Carob: The Rodney Dangerfield of the Rare Fruit World


#1

I was asked to start a topic on carob, which I’ve been studying for 6 years now. Just to save on typing, I’ve already written a lot on Twitter, which I collected on a website: http://wke.lt/w/s/ZGp0z

Carob is native to the Mediterranean so it can be grown in places with a Mediterranean climate and in some cases even in desert climates on the edge of those. That means the Mediterranean, parts of the Middle East, parts of the US, Chile, Australia, and South Africa. It will be interesting to see how this changes as greenhouse gases affect our climate regions. I suspect carob will be a great crop to bet on because it can take drought and hot temperatures (although not much humidity).

I’ve studied carob street trees in CA for 6 years. I’ve been growing a couple plants of my own for 4 or so years. But I still feel I have so much to learn about growing carob, particularly about grafting it.

There are a lot of reasons I think it’s not more popular. It’s a bit of a “shortstop” plant. It does a lot of things well. It provides broadleaf shade without a big water investment. It can take heat and can often take down to 20F without getting killed. The fruits have a great shelf life and can be eaten off the tree or processed into LBG, carob powder, carob syrup, or even used to make alcohol. The trees have a real gnarled beauty to them, in my opinion, but can also be pruned into hedges, and are even used in bonsai! And it makes a beautiful red hardwood that is highly sought by wood turners and sculptors. That seems like a pretty good deal to me!


#2

I have two carob trees that are volunteers from seed… one is a female and the other male… I grafted a female scion branch onto the male and made that the dominant branch on that tree. This year they are loaded with pods.


#3

Looks great. What time of year did you graft and what sort of graft did you use? Also, how old was the tree when you grafted it?


#4

I can see from the fruit why people claim the seeds of the honey locust as carob


#5

Yes, the various tree legumes (Fabaceae or Leguminosae) really seem to confuse folks. If you do a Google Images search on Ceratonia siliqua, you’ll often find tamarind and other tree legume pods mislabeled as “carob”. The only one that has some claim to it is Prosopis species. Many Prosopis species were called “algarrobo” by the Spaniards when they saw them in the New World. “Algarrobo” being Spanish for carob. So sometimes you have to be careful the carob recipe you’re looking at wasn’t actually meant for Prosopis syrup or flour.


#6

The tree was maybe a 2-3 years old when I grafted onto it. If I remember correctly it was sometime in mid to late spring, because the branches had pods on them (which I removed before grafting). I got the scion from a random female tree that was in a parking lot on the I-5 when I was coming back home from a road trip. The graft was tongue & groove, but I suspect a cleft graft would be fine also.
…btw if you are going to gnaw on the pods you have to be careful and go slow, the seeds are hard as pebbles, they’ll break your teeth. A unique sweet treat though.


#7

Now I’m curious what city that was in! Carobs are not uncommon to see along stretches of highways in CA. They’re really tough, not needing much water or maintenance so they’re a perfect solution for freeway landscaping. The stretch of Hwy 101 near Studio City is lined with them, the 710 stub in Alhambra has some, and I know I’ve spotted some along various bits of the 5 in LA, but not so far along I-5 between LA and SF. There are some once you get into the South Bay, though.


#8

It was a place called The Apricot Tree (I just looked it up on yelp and it has since gone out of business) on Panoche Rd in Firebaugh, CA.


#9

Thanks. I used to stop at that exit frequently, but never did go to The Apricot Tree itself. Apricots are among my favorite fruits and I felt catfished that there wasn’t an apricot-heavy menu there!


#10

Hang onto that tree. I just visited The Apricot Tree and either it was so young it died without care or it was actively rooted out because all I saw surviving there were Oleanders and a few other scruffy customers. Amazing how fast nature is taking back that parking lot, even though it still gets some traffic from ppl looking to crash overnight.


#11

Hmmm… there were multiple trees there at the time. They were in the far end of the parking lot in a line, where the trucks would park, not up close to the restaurant.


#12

I got as close as I could get to those given there was a truck or two there. It’s always possible I made a mistake and didn’t see, but I didn’t see any carobs. I’ll have an opportunity to check again on the way back to LA sometime, I imagine.


#13

Pods are fattening up…


#14

Looks great. Envious!


#15

Turning brown…


#16

To address the greenhouse gasses question, things will grow better with more carbon dioxide around. But the question itself presupposes that greenhouse gasses are some kind of issue…


#17

That’s not true. Plants need CO2, true. And can do with more than humans can, true. In a lab or greenhouse situation where other environmental factors can be controlled, elevated CO2 benefits the plants. However, the world is not a lab. Elevated CO2 has other effects like acidifying oceans, intensifying storms, intensifying droughts and intensifying flood. It also changes climate patterns, which changes the ranges of pests and diseases. Those things can kill plants and do. Even if a certain species of crop can still be grown in an area, the cultivars that do best are changing due to these factors.


#18

How’d they turn out?


#19

For those in the Sacramento region, I’ll be speaking on carob (only a 15 min presentation with 5 - 10 min for questions) at Nerd Nite Sacramento. I usually like not to mention chocolate when talking carob, but it’s sort of unavoidable this time because they picked me for a Valentine Day’s theme. I’m one of 3 presenters, but the only one on plants. First 20 ticket buyers get their ticket for $5. https://www.tickettailor.com/events/nerdnitesacramento/336221

It’ll be interesting for me. I’ve spoken on carob to various size audiences 4 times so far. This is the first time it’s been for a completely general audience.


#20

Wasn’t planning on posting the Nerd Nite talk, but I have a COVID19 scare (a day of coughing fits) that put the fear in me of having work that wouldn’t see the light of day so I tried to do a quick (that ended up taking hours) synch of informally-recorded audio with images of the slides.

It was for a non-fruit geek audience so instead of being mostly about growing them, it’s mostly about their history and how they’re used. https://youtu.be/qd4En_8vvgY