Carob

(Ceratonia siliqua) "Now John wore a garment of camel's hair, and a leather girdle around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey" (Matthew 3; 4). Were Carob pods the locusts that John the Baptist ate in the desert? In any case, they are certainly edible, and known as Algaroba-beans in commerce (F G Savage). The name Locust Bean is applied to the pod (Wit) - this is the name under which they are imported into Britain, and names like St John's Sweetbread (Kourennoff), and St John's Bread (Potter & Sargent) are given in deference to the Biblical association with John. They were the "husks" of Jesus' parable of the prodigal son: "And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him" (Luke 15; 16). The pods are still used, as in Biblical times, for feeding cattle, horses and pigs, and in times of scarcity they are used for human consumption. When they are completely ripe they are full of a honey-like syrup (Moldenke & Moldenke). Palestinian children will eat them raw, but they are generally boiled down into a kind of molasses (Crowfoot & Baldensperger).

The seeds were once used as weights by apothecaries and jewellers, because of their uniformity (Hyam & Pankhurst). The word carat may come from keration, the Greek name for carob (Potter & Sargent).

There is a cough medicine called carob molasses, which is very popular (Bianchini & Corbetta). Carob is used in Russian folk medicine (half a pound, chopped, in a quart of vodka, taken twice a day), for piles. The patient is warned that no other alcohol should be taken! (Kourennoff).

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