CAROB TREE (Ceratonia siliqua)
- Average expected life of tree, in years, from sprout to death:
The carob tree is a long lived evergreen tree and will live for over 100 years and can live to 200 years
b) Years until trees first fruit:
The carob tree is slow growing and traditionally would not produce fruit until it is 15 years old and 20 years before it is producing a full crop. However, cultivated varieties onto grafted stock have reduced the time frame to 6 years when it will begin to bear fruit and approximately 10 years old to reach full production levels. It will producing up to 125kg in a season, with some areas reporting up to 1 tonne. Some varieties require several trees for pollination, while others are hermaphrodite (self-pollinating)
c) Season of year when productive tree fruits (ie Summer, Autumn, Winter Spring or combo ie Su/Au):
The carob fruit takes almost a year to develop from flowers to pods and then to ripen. The tree flowers in autumn and pods are harvested the following late summer
d) Expected or average number years tree expected to fruit for once it begins. (ie year 8 to 20 = 12 yrs):
The carob tree will fruit for its entire life span from when it starts producing around year 6
e) Country/area of origin:
The carob tree originated from the Middle East (Turkey, Syria) and was brought to the Mediterranean, especially Greece, Italy and Spain, therefore it is well suited to the temperate and semiarid regions of Australia. Carob was brought to Australia by British colonists in the settlement.
f) Average annual rainfall in area of origin:
The average rainfall of the mediterannean is 370-650mm, another reason the temperate region of Australia is well suited for the carob tree as it has similar rainfall.
g) Latin name of tree and family:
Ceratonia siliqua of Fabaceae or leguminosae family (pea family)
h) Any other products, benefits, useful or interesting facts about of tree:
I discovered the carob tree when researching trees that are fire resistant. Carob trees regenerate after burning and are planted on the edges of villages in Spain as they slow down the progress of grass fires.
The carob tree is highly versatile and useful to humans and soil, as well as for animal fodder and the flower nectar feeds our precious bees
It has evergreen, dense foliage and shiny leathery leaves makes it ideal as a shade tree and wind break. Its beauty as an ornamental tree adds to it’s appeal
The carob is also incredibly drought tolerant, due to it’s extensive tap root system that can develop 20m deep in the soil, thus surviving in areas lacking irrigation or with low rainfall and thriving in hot summers eg semi arid regions. Low summer rainfall also reduces the risk of fungal attack, to which it is susceptible, making it not suited to Tropical regions. However, ideal rainfall of approx 500mm will result in better yield. It is not suited for areas where temperatures drop below -8 deg C as this will damage the mature plant and retard fruiting.
It prefers well drained and aerated soils but is very adaptable and can grow in poor sandy soil and even rocky sites. Although it will tolerate a wide range of soils it does not like heavy clay and water logging which will likely cause stunting or death. It also tolerates slightly saline conditions and a range pH 6.2-8.6 but grows best in high pH limestone and other alkaline soils.
The flowers have no petals and develop into pods resembling green broad beans. The mature fruit of the carob is a glossy dark brown flattened leathery pod, technically a legume, that grows 15-30cm long, approx 2.5cm wide and weigh 20-40grams. The pod contains a sweet chocolate tasting pulp and up to 15 bean-like seeds which are hard and brown in colour
Every part of the pod can be consumed. It can be eaten fresh when young and green, however they are most often harvested when mature and dark, then dried and processed – either kibbled to separate seed from pulp, roasted, and milled/ground into carob powder/flour or manufactured into a wide variety of products
The ground pod forms a high protein powder/flour that is also high in calcium and natural sugar (the pod can have a sugar content of up to 50%) thus making it an effective substitute for Cocoa powder. It has become known as ‘healthy chocolate’ because of it’s chocolate-like flavour and it is free of the allergenic and addictive effects of caffeine and bromine present in Cocoa as well as possessing excellent nutritional value. This makes it ideal for use in health foods and as a caffeine-free substitute. The roasted seeds are a healthy alternative to coffee.
The seeds are 35% gum and when separated from the pulp are used to make locust bean gum (ceratonia) which is used as a gelling agent, stabiliser, thickener or emulsifier in cosmetics and foodstuffs especially ice-cream, yoghurts, confectionery, syrups, pastes and chewing gum as well as molasses and alcohol and a substitute for eggs. Other products manufactured using the ground carob seed gum include inks, paints, textiles, ceramics, paper, adhesives, and pet foods
Oil extracted from the seed (algaroba) is used in the pharmaceutical industry. Carob is valued for its medicinal uses, due to its high pectin and tannin contents including the treatment of coughs and digestive ailments. The oil also contains lignans, which have many benefits including antiviral, anti fungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities
The bark and wood (carouge) of the carob tree is hard and moderately dense and highly sought after by wood turners for specialty furniture, as well as sometimes being used for firewood. Tannin is also obtained from the bark of the Carob tree
- Height, width and shape of tree at maturity:
The carob tree grows to 10m high and has a ‘spreading’ shape with a broad hemispherical crown, thick trunk and sturdy branches, with branches not growing on lower trunk and arbour growing to approximately 10m wide. Trees can reach up to 15mx15m in the wild. Trunk size generally reaches a diameter of 1m for cultivated varieties.
j) challenges or special requirements, such as needing other varieties in order to fruit:
The slow growing/producing nature of the carob tree, and planting a minimum of 3-5 trees to ensure male/female/hermaphrodite trees are present to increase pollination.