When visiting Cyprus, or even just Aphrodite Hills Resort, it is impossible for the beautiful native Carob tree to go unnoticed. They are quietly abundant, yet add so much character to the landscape alongside the shimmering olive trees.
The Carob tree is a species native to the Mediterranean region and has been cultivated in the area for nearly four thousand years. The centre of origin of the carob tree appears to be the Middle East (Syria and Palestine) and is believed to have been spread by the Greeks to mainland Greece, Cyprus and Italy.
There are lots of interesting facts about the Carob tree, and the Carobs themselves that you may not know about, so we have compiled some of our favourites below. Every part of the Carob tree and its fruits can be used, which makes it extremely valuable:
- The scientific name of the carob tree is ‘Ceratonia siliqua’, derived from the Greek word ‘keration’ which means horn (referring to the shape of the pod itself).
- The seeds from the carob are almost identical in size and weight and thus was used by merchants in olden times to weigh gold. The word “carat” is actually derived from the Greek word (Kεράτιον).
- Carobs are known descriptively as ‘the black gold of Cyprus’ (because up until the 1940s they were the major agricultural export product and most important crop on the island).
- The Carob is a slow growing, evergreen and long living (up to 200 years) tree, well suited to dry, harsh climates and infertile soils with a productivity life ranging from 80-100 years.
- Ripening of the Carob fruit starts early in August and is a gradual process taking around 60 days before harvesting begins, a manual process that has remained unchanged for centuries (carried out by knocking, using long bamboo poles or wooden sticks, at the bunches of the pods and collecting the fruit on fibre nets which are laid out under the trees).
- Carob pods have traditionally been used both as animal (primarily) and human food.
- Carob pulp contains three times more calcium than milk.
- Carob is rightly referred to as the healthy alternative to chocolate and coffee: it contains no psychoactive substances and is therefore suitable as a hypo-allergenic and drug free substitute.
- The best of the carob pods harvested can be eaten raw, traditionally they would be sucked like a chocolate flavoured lollipop for a while and then gently bitten to release the sweet syrup inside.
- The endosperm extracted from the Carob seed produces valuable natural food additive, carob (or locust) bean gum (LBG), a whiteish powder which possesses very strong binding characteristics. This product is referred to as E410 and is used as a natural stabilizing or thickening agent in food products especially confectionery, ice cream, baby foods and also pet food.
- Carob timber is hard and close-grained, and has been used to make utensils as well as fuel. Carob wood has traditionally been used for making slow-burning charcoal.
- Carob pulp was among the first horticultural crops used for the production of industrial alcohol by fermentation in several Mediterranean countries – fermented carob pods can contain alcohol of up to 25%.
- In older times, farmers prior to their early morning work, took carob syrup dissolved in cool water as a refreshing energy drink.
- Pastelli is a traditional snack in Cyprus which is made from Carob syrup, alongside peanuts and sesame seeds – giving a crispy, tasteful and healthy snack.
Folklore attached to the Carob Tree:
- Carob is also referred to as St John’s bread following the legend that St’ John the Baptist was feeding on the pods of this tree while in the desert.
- The trees provide valuable shade for animals, but according to a well known local saying, this is not the case for humans who are warned that sleeping under a carob tree will result in bad dreams.
Anogyra Village is known as the home to the carobs and is only a 25 minute drive from Aphrodite Hills. There is a wonderful Carob & pastelli museum in the village which is well worth a visit, especially as the Anogyra itself is so beautiful (it is 1 of only 8 heritage villages in Cyprus) – more details can be found from the real-cyprus.com page onAnogyra.
We guarantee you’ll never be bored at Aphrodite Hills: www.aphroditerentals.com