Welcome to another month and another round of the SOS Kitchen Challenge! After posting April’s roundup, Kim and I realized that the SOS Kitchen Challenge is now a year old. Our first challenge in April 2010 featured the beet, and we’ve been on a roll ever since. Many thanks to all of YOU for continuing to support the Challenge with your recipes and ideas!
To celebrate our one year “birthday,” we’ve decided to pick one of our favorite ingredients and feature giveaways for two lucky readers! This month we are featuring…
An Abridged History Of Carob
Carob, also known as St. John’s Bread, has been used for over 5000 years. The word “carob” is derived from the Arabic Kharrub or Kharoub, which means pod or bean pod. This ancient food has a long and interesting history, feeding Mohammed’s armies and (according to the Bible) sustaining St. John the Baptist in the wilderness (Mark 1:16). Carob was referred to as the “Egyption fig” or “Egyption date” by the Romans, who at the unripened pods as a sweet treat. The ancient Egyptians used carob to make the adhesive used in mummification, and carob has been found in Egyptian tombs. And more recently, thousands of Spaniards relied on the nutrition from the carob pod during the Spanish Civiil War and World Wars I and II. Fascinating!
Carob is harvested from the carob bean tree. Depending on the age of the tree, carob bean trees yield between 100 and 250 pounds of beans per year. Over the course of the growing season, glossy flat green bean pods develop. As they mature, the pods turn dark brown and become very firm. Each pod grows up to 12 inches in length and can contain as many as 15 carob seeds. Seeds are harvested and used for human consumption while the pods are often used as animal feed.
How To Use Carob
As a food, carob is remarkably versatile. Carob powder, available both raw and toasted, is a wonderful 1:1 substitute for cocoa powder in any recipe. Carob is also used to make carob chips, which can be substituted for chocolate chips. The rich brown color is similar to that of cocoa powder, and naturally sweet flavor reduces the need for other sweeteners in recipes, making it great for low-sugar or sugar-free diets (such as the ACD!). But unlike cocoa, carob is free of caffeine, theobromine, and oxalic acid, so it a great choice for individuals who are sensitive to, or wish to avoid, those things.
Roasted carob seeds have a rich flavor, and can be used as a substitute for coffee or black tea. Whole pods are eaten in Egypt as a snack and crushed pods are used to make a refreshing drink (I actually used to snack on the pods when I first began the ACD about ten years ago. . . slightly warmed, they become soft and chewy, very date-like). In addition to using the pod whole or ground, it can be used for a variety of other purposes. Throughout the Mediterranean, carob is used to make liqueurs and syrups for both culinary and medicinal purposes (carob syrup can be found at Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, or speciality markets). The commonly-used thickener locust bean gum–often found in many processed foods–is derived from carob.
In addition to being delicious, carob is actually quite health promoting. As mentioned earlier, it is free of caffeine, theobromine, and oxalic acid, perfect for anyone intolerant to caffeine or on a low oxalic diet. It is high in fiber and contains a respectable amount of calcium, potassium, riboflavin, copper, potassium, and omega-6 fatty acids. It can be used as a treatment for diarrhea, and is particularly effective in infants and children.
How To Participate (And Enter To Win!)
Kim and I are offering great prizes this month to two lucky readers as a way to celebrate our one year anniversary. By submitting a recipe to this month’s SOS Challenge, you are automatically eligible to win! (Please remember that recipes must be vegan or provide reliable vegan substitutes, cannot use refined sugars, and must utilize whole ingredients–no box mixes). For full Challenge guidelines, please see this post. If your entry does not comply with our rules, we will be obliged to remove it–so please read the rules!
Entries must be recieved by 11:59 pm CST on May 31, 2011.
Our prizes this month:
- A 1-pint jar of Harrison’s Sugar Bush Maple Syrup, harvested by Kim’s family in Fence, Wisconsin. This syrup is made in small batches and is only available through them–it is not sold in stores. So, lucky you!
- A pdf copy of my most recent ebook, Good Morning! Breakfasts without Gluten, Sugar, Eggs, or Dairy The book features easy allergy-friendly breakfast ideas perfect for everyone in your family. I hope to inspire you!
At the end of the month, Kim and I will choose the two winners at random from the entries, and will announce the winners on our blogs Wednesday June 1, 2011. Be sure to come back here and check if you won at the beginning of next month!
We’ve been blown away by the enthusiasm and incredible creativity you’ve all shown over the past Challenges. So put those carob-filled thinking caps on, and start cooking!
Here are some carob-based recipes on the blog to inspire you:
- Carob and Raisin Biscuits
- Carob-Coconut Sweeties
- Cinnamon-Spiced Coconut Bark
- Faux Chocolate
- Green Monster Muffins
- Raw Carob-Cashew Pudding
- Carob and Date Pancakes
[Oh–and don’t forget about the iHerb $50 Shopping Spree Giveaway–continuing until May 10th! ]