Sunday, May 15, 2016

The carob

FOOD: Second Look: Carob (Meg Cotner, Paste Magazine).
Carob is an ancient food, found in the greater Mediterranean region, in parts of South America, and Southern California. The carob tree is an evergreen, and drought tolerant (thought rain is necessary for it to fruit). Its pods contain legumes, but the entire thing – pod, beans and all – is used as food (both for humans and animals).

It is also plays a part in the world’s major faiths. It’s mentioned in the Talmud – a basket of carob pods alone nourished the impoverished Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa from Sabbath eve to Sabbath eve. (Ta’anit, 24b), and Jews eat it during Tu Bishvat (a celebration of the trees). In Islam, carob juice is consumed during Ramadan. The conventional interpretation of a section in the Book of Matthew, is John the Baptist ate carob in the desert – “locusts” may very well mean carob beans, the fruit of the Locust Tree; it is sometimes referred to as St. John’s Bread. In any case, carob trees are one of the most common in Israel.
The carob has come up from time to time in various PaleoJudaica posts, collected here. James A Kellhoffer has devoted a whole book to the subject of The Diet of John the Baptist and he thinks John ate locusts.