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Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Ceratonia (Greek for horn, in reference to the large pod). Leguminosae. Carob. A handsome evergreen tree, bearing large pods that are used somewhat for human food but chiefly for forage.

One of the Cassia tribe: calyx-tube disk-bearing, somewhat top-shaped, the segms. 5 and short; petals 0; stamens 5: pod long (4-12 in.), compressed, thick and coriaceous, indehiscent, filled with a pulpy substance, bearing obovate transverse seeds. C. Siliqua, Linn. (Figs. 877, 878), the only species, is now widely distributed in warm countries, being grown both for shade and for the edible pods. It reaches a height of 40-50 ft.: lvs. pinnate, shining, the 2-3 pairs of lfts. oval and obtuse: fls. in small lateral red racemes, polygamo-dioecious, the trees said to be variable in sexuality at different ages. It thrives well in S. Calif, and S.Fla. The dry pods are occasionally seen in the fruit stands in northern markets. There are many varieties, differing in the size and shape of pod. The Ceratonia is known also as Algaroba, Karoub, Caroubier, and St. John's Bread. The last name records the notion that the seeds and sweet pulp are respectively the locusts and wild honey which St. John found in the wilderness. The dry valves or pods have been supposed to be the husks that provided the subsistence of the prodigal son. See G.F. 3:318, 323. The seeds are said to have been the original carat weight of goldsmiths. L. H. B.

The carob is of much importance as a farm crop throughout the Mediterranean basin and other hot and semi-arid regions. According to Alphonse de Candolle, its original home was about the eastern end of the Mediterranean, including the southern coast of Asia Minor and Syria and perhaps Tripoli. Its cultivation began in historic times, and was diffused by the Greeks in Italy and Greece and was carried by the Arabs west as far as Spain and Morocco. In all these countries the large pods, rich in protein and sugar, are a very important forage crop, being eaten with avidity by all kinds of stock, besides furnishing considerable sustenance to the poor in times of scarcity, and are also used for the manufacture of syrups and different fermented drinks. Carob pods were the main sustenance of Wellington's cavalry in the Peninsular campaign and at the present time are the chief food of the British army horses on the island of Malta and the horses of the tramways in the cities of southern Italy. They form one of the principal exports of Palestine, Syria and especially of the island of Cyprus. Thousands of tons are annually imported into England where they are ground for stock-feed. A. Aaronsohn, Chief of the Jewish Experiment Station in Palestine, says that an acre of carob trees on arid soil yields a much greater quantity of food matter than an equal area planted with the best alfalfa. He gives the sugar content at 40 per cent and in some varieties even higher, and the protein content as 7 to 8 per cent. The French and Portuguese writers give somewhat lower percentages, but this seems to be much a matter of climate and varieties. The analysis published by Riviere and Lecoq points to a high digestive coefficient, and nutritive value a little higher than oats; it is estimated that 147.5 kilos of carobs equals 100 kilos of wheat (a kilo is nearly 2¼ pounds).

The first introduction of the tree into this country on a considerable scale was by the U. S. Patent Office from Alicante, Spain, in 1854 and from Palestine in 1859. About 8,000 plants, grown from seed in Washington, were distributed during the spring of 1860, mostly in the southern states. Some of these plants probably found their way to California, as a number of old trees are growing in various parts of that state from San Diego on the south to Napa and Butte counties on the north. The latest importation was in June, 1911, from Valencia, Spain, by the Office of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction of the Department of Agriculture. This shipment consisted of cuttings of six of the leading varieties grown in that district which are now being propagated by budding at the Chico (California) Introduction Field Station and will soon be available for distribution.

Centuries of cultivation have given rise to a large number of varieties, differing in quality of pods, vigor and productiveness and adaptability to various soils. The species is either dioecious or monoecious. All trees in California are of course seedlings and, as far as examined by the writer, monoecious, although Aaronsohn states that the best kinds in Palestine are dioecious, and a sufficient number of staminate trees, therefore, must be planted with those varieties to pollinate the female trees. In the province of Algarvia, Portugal, seventeen named varieties are cultivated and about as many in France and Spain. The best of these should be introduced into this country. The carob tree thrives only in a warm climate, the range being about the same as that of the orange, but with a little protection for two or three winters, the range can be considerably extended. At the Government Field Station at Chico, several varieties have survived temperatures of 18° to 22°, while others when young have been killed to the ground by the same degrees of frost. The old trees scattered about the Pacific Coast States show that a large area is adapted to it. In France, Spain and Portugal, the carob grows in most kinds of soil, except in stiff clay or wet ground, and even in gravel if fertile and permeable to the roots. The crop is sufficiently valuable to make it worthy of the best soil and treatment.

The carob is usually grown from seed and afterwards budded to the best varieties. It can be raised from cuttings, but requires bottom heat and careful treatment. At the Chico Field Station, where thousands of seedlings are grown, the best success is had by planting under glass. Quicker germination is secured by soaking the seed in water for three or four days or until they begin to swell. The tree is difficult to transplant and usually fails unless moved with a ball of earth. The best results are had by growing the plants in pots or in "flats" in tenacious soil, as is the practice with eucalyptus, when the trees are cut apart and lifted with squares of earth attached. At Aleppo, in Syria, the growers make pots of a mixture of clay and cow-dung which, dried in the sun, are strong enough to hold the earth in which the seeds are planted. When ready to put into the orchard the pot is sunk where the tree is to stand. As soon as the pot becomes moist from contact with the earth, it is readily permeable by the roots.

While the carob is a rather slow grower, it lives to a great age and should be planted not less than 35 to 40 feet apart, with interplanting of peaches or other growths for income until the carobs begin to bear. In Algiers and Tunis, it is often planted as a border tree, for which its beauty and utility admirably fit it. When well established, the seedlings are budded with the best varieties. If buds are taken from bearing trees, fruit may be expected in three or four years. In California seedlings bear when six to eight years of age. While it is eminently a dry-climate tree, two or three summer irrigations will greatly aid the development, hasten fruiting and increase the yield. It will respond to the same good treatment that is given to a well-kept fruit orchard. The crop matures in September and October and, as with most other fruit trees, it is most abundant every second year. When ripe, the pods turn brown and begin to fall. Those that fail to drop are easily knocked down with bamboo or other poles.

Aaronsohn gives the crop in Palestine in good years at an average of 450 pounds to the tree, and states that he has seen wild stocks fifteen to eighteen years after grafting give a yield of 900 to 1,000 pounds of pods. Du Breuil give a the yield in southern France at 220 pounds and mentions single trees at Valencia, Spain, that produce as high as 1,380 kilos, or 3,040 pounds. Riviere and Lecoq report the yield of trees in Algiers at 100 to 300 kilos, or 220 to 660 pounds. Francis de Mello Lotte gives the crops of mature trees on deep fertile soil in Algarvia, Portugal, at 300 to 750 kilos, or 660 to 1,650 pounds each. As the pods are equal in nutrients to barley and superior to oats for feeding and fattening cattle, sheep, hogs and horses, and the yield is from three to four times the weight per acre of grain, it is evident that few crops will give the farmer an equal value. In the mild climate of the Gulf States, especially the coastal regions of Texas, the southern parts of New Mexico and Arizona and the greater part of California, this beautiful and valuable evergreen tree, when once appreciated, is bound to become a staple addition to farm crops for the nourishment of both man and beast. G. P. Rixford.


The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.


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