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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 seems the Middle East (Syria and Palestine).
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. Known descriptively as "the black gold of Cyprus“, carobs were in the past the major agricultural export product of the island and for some villages the center of agricultural activity and the main source of income.
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 to 100 years. The fruit, a brownish colored pod is elongated, compressed, 10 to 30 cm long and up to 3,5 cm wide. The Cyprus carob varieties are rather unique worldwide in that they contain a much higher percentage of sugar in their pods. The first commercial fruit can be harvested 5-7 years from planting. Ripening of the pods starts early in August, harvesting begins after 60 days. This is a manual process, knocking with long bamboo poles or wooden sticks at the bunches of the pods and collecting the fruit on fiber nets which are laid out under the trees.
When carob pods arrive at the processing plant, moisture content is in a range of 10 to 20%. Therefore, pods require further drying and are therefore stored under shelter in dry and ventilated warehouses to reduce moisture to around 8% in order to avoid rotting.
Carob pods are crushed mechanically and are then separated from the kernels.
The food industry processes the pulp further by roasting and milling to obtain a fine powder that is traded for human consumption, or boiling up the kibbles to extract the sweet carob syrup. The extracted syrup is then boiled in a large cauldron for about 4 hours with continuous stirring until most of the water is evaporated, leaving behind the thick and sweet syrup.