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Saturday, 13 April 2013

Carob Tree - Pekmez and Flour

We planted a carob tree about four years ago and we cannot wait until it starts fruiting which should be in the next year or so.

If you enjoy peanut butter and jam then, try a much healthier alternative, pekmez (made with carob pods) and tahini (made from sesame) for a wonderful combination.

Carob is supposed to be a slow growing tree but ours has grown rapidly. The tree is evergreen, can live up to 200 years and is  well suited to dry climates. Additionally, it will grow in any soil and is drought tolerant.

Fruits are brownish coloured pods which can be grow up to 30cm long and contain between 10-15 hard seeds.  The tree flowers between September and November but pods take 8-9 months to mature.  The pods start off green and eventually turn to a darkish brown and are ready to harvest in August. 

Harvesting, in Cyprus, has remained unaltered for centuries. The pods are knocked down by using bamboo poles and the pods collected by spreading nets around the tree. 

The pods can be used to either make pekmez, a syrup made from the seed pods or ground to make carob flour used in all sorts of recipes and as a chocolate substitute.

Pekmez is made by crushing the pods, soaking them in water and then simmering the pods over a low heat for up to 24 hours. The result is a thick syrup which is sieved and poured into clean sterile jars.

The process to make carob flour involves sun drying the pods for up to 5 days on sheets. The pods are then roasted before being ground to a powder which can be used for baking.