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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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carob Ceratonia siliqua, a long-lived evergreen tree bearing large, brown, leathery pods and seeds, rich in sugar. These, often referred to as locust beans, have been used for food in the E. Mediterranean region since ancient times.

Cultivation of the carob was practised by the ancient Greeks, who valued it highly as a sweetmeat. When the pods ripen they become full of a sweet gum with a distinctive taste and smell. Locust gum is produced by grinding the endosperm.
The Bible relates that when John the Baptist was in the desert he lived on locusts and wild honey. Opinion is divided about whether the insect or the plant is meant. Both are nutritious and locally available, and the original Greek has the same ambiguity as the English. The gum is still sometimes made into a sweetmeat called St John’s bread.