6.15.10 Chew On This

Carob chews 790 xxx
photo by george billard
Growing up in Santa Cruz, still a hippie mecca to this day, I was exposed early on to all manner of what used to be known as "health foods"—sprouts, carob, smoothies, kefir, whole grain sourdough bread. Maybe that's why I still enjoy trawling about crunchy food co-ops, peering at bags of sesame sticks, bins of millet and containers of powdered spirulina. There is almost always an assortment of carob-covered items (raisins, almonds, ginger) and sometimes these little nuggets, studded with lots of goodies. I love carob's dark, earthy richness; its mild bitterness and distinct winey taste hold up to chocolate's complexity. Carob is a species of flowering evergreen tree in the pea family that is cultivated for its edible seed pods, which are also known as "St. John's bread" because John the Baptist was said to have subsisted on them in the wilderness. Supposedly they also fed Mohammed's armies. The pod can be elongated, compressed, straight or curved and takes a full year to develop and ripen. It is the dried and sometimes roasted pod that we eat, and not the peas or seeds inside. These are called locust beans and are used for animal feed or as the source of locust bean gum, a thickening agent that is an ingredient in many  processed foods.
Carob pod 790 xxx
green and ripe carob pods
An incredibly rich food source, carob is perhaps the ideal "survival food" since it lasts a long time, requires no special storage conditions, and can be eaten with no preparations. It has twice the calcium of milk and contains no oxalic acid, as does chocolate, which tends to interfere with the body's ability to absorb calcium. It's about 4% protein and 76% carbohydrates and, although very sweet, has 60% fewer calories than chocolate. Additionally, carob contains substantial phosphorus, an abundance of potassium, vitamin A and B vitamins, and small amounts of sodium and iron. I'm actually not sure why we don't hear more about carob as a superfood, and as a delicious, versatile ingredient.

These chewy little snacks are great to have around when you need an energy boost or your sweet tooth is acting up. They are satisfying and nutritious. You can whip them up in no time flat using whatever nuts you like and keep a container of them in your fridge or a cool cupboard.

Carob Chews

makes about 2 dozen small squares
adapted from Nourishing Traditions
  • — 2 cups lightly roasted almonds, cashews and walnuts (or any combination of nuts and/or seeds you like)
  • — 1/2 cup carob powder, preferably organic
  • — 1/2 cup raw wildflower honey
  • — 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • — 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • — 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • — 1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • — 1 cup dried unsweetened coconut

Place honey, carob, vanilla and salt in a double boiler over medium-low heat (or a bowl set in a pan of simmering water) and stir until melted. Blend well.

Meanwhile, place nuts in food processor and pulse until finely chopped but not pulverized. Add honey-carob mixture, coconut and sunflower seeds to nuts and pulse a few more times to incorporate.

Line a 9x12 pan with buttered parchment paper and spread mixture about 1/2-3/4" thick. Cover with more parchment and refrigerate several hours until quite firm. Cut into small squares and store in an airtight container in the fridge or in a cool cupboard.

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love your post -- takes me right back to my childhood and mom taking us to the one health food store at that time in charlotte (called peoples food!) I have been craving carob so please let me know if you come across any low fat recipes using it
stephanie on June 15, 2010 at 5:43 am —
I'll keep an eye out especially for something that will work for you...
laura on June 15, 2010 at 5:48 am —
I grew up in Charlotte!! I knew People's Food. Do you remember a restaurant called "They Laughed at Edison"? First and only veggie restaurant for a looooong time! Unfortunately it did not last very long. Do you also remember the Home Economist?
Vennie on June 15, 2010 at 7:13 pm —
A little late to the party as it's 2013, but I lived in Charlotte from about 1976 to 1981 and I remember People's Food, the Home Economist and They Laughed at Edison. What nice memories. I loved all those places and they were often Saturday "field trips" we'd take to see what was new. I still have the recipe for vegetable soup from People's. It's not an official recipe, but one I put together based on what I saw in the soup and what the People's folks told me was in it. I had to guess at quantities.
Foodie 7 on January 30, 2013 at 6:47 pm —
Laura, now you have done it--you have inspired me to drop everything and make this right away because for once I have all the ingredients on hand. But alas my carob powder has been on the shelf longer than I can estimate, stored in a glass jar in the back of the pantry. it smells normal. Any idea of its shelf life?
Elizabeth on June 16, 2010 at 6:34 am —
Hmmm...well, everything is better when it's fresh, but if you can't bring yourself to buy some new, raw, organic carob powder, then give it a whirl with the dusty stuff. And let me know how it turns out!
laura on June 16, 2010 at 5:39 pm —
well I love carob especially molasses that we traditionally eat in Lebanon with a little bit of tahini on a piece of bread or biscuit. These bars look fabulous to me and as soon as I find carob powder here I will be making them; bookmarked the recipe.
tasteofbeirut on June 19, 2010 at 10:20 am —
Love the sound of molasses with tahini! Carob is really quite different, though. Are you in Beirut? I'm surprised it's not readily available there, at least in its dried pod form.
laura on June 19, 2010 at 3:05 pm —
Vennie, I remember the "They Laughed At Edison" restaurant in Charlotte. I liked their cashew-walnut loaf, bread, and apple-strawberry juice.
Ray on November 19, 2010 at 8:26 pm —