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05-08-2014

Alfarroba from the Algarve

Alfarroba - Carob

The carob tree is a member of the legume (pea) family. It is a large tree and grows to 15m in 50 years. It produces no fruit for the first 15 years of its life, but will fruit well into its old age. A large tree can produce one ton of beans in one harvest. Contrary to the orange trees, carob trees do not need much water.

The carob tree flowers in September and October. The flowers on female carob trees must be pollinated by pollen from the male trees. Developing carob pods have the appearance of green broad beans but they turn into a dark glossy brown with maturity. It takes a full year for the pods to develop and ripen. Carob seeds and pods are edible. The ground seeds are used as a substitute for cocoa and as a food (also known as algarroba, St. John's bread, and locust bean gum). The pods are commonly used as cattle feed. Carob powder is also used as a food stabilizer and as a darkening agent.

The carob is traditionally beaten with reeds or bamboo rods from the tree and then picked up from the ground.
The Premature knocking off the fruits is necessary because otherwise they fall from the tree overripe. Then they would rot quickly by moisture absorption. Harvested carob is usually packaged in bags or other containers. Then it is usually supplied to buying stations.

Tarte de Alfarroba e Amendôas is a Almond Carob cake from the southern Portuguese region of the Algarve. The Carob tree is a tree popularly seen all over the Algarve and only grows throughout the Mediterranean regions. The carob pod’s powder has a sweet cocoa like flavor that is perfect for enhancing texture and taste in desserts and can be used as a natural sweetener. This is a richly flavorful and decadent cake that is quite a unique treat.

In the Algarve carob powder is used in baking as an alternative to chocolate and is also known by the name Cacao do Algarve. Carob is free from the stimulants caffeine and theobromine found in chocolate. It is also naturally sweet, so carob products will generally contain substantially less sugar than their chocolate counterparts.

Portugal produces around 40.000 tons of alfarroba per year, most of which is exported. This is a 32 million euro business. Only Marokko produces more, but the Portuguese claim to have the best quality.

 

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