This is a story about carob beans which was inspired by seeing a carob tree that was loaded with carob beans while I was on a recent holiday in Cyprus.
We had driven up to the northwest coast of Cyprus and were out walking and looking out over the coast, when I noticed that the tree I was standing next to was loaded with hundreds of long black seed pods.
I wondered what they were, but then an elderly Cypriot gentleman who was passing spoke up and said that it was a carob tree and that these were carob beans.
I had heard that carob is sometimes used as a substitute for chocolate, but this elderly Cypriot man told me a lot more of the history of the carob. He told me how going back a few hundred years, after the re-discovery of the Americas, Western Europe had learned to enjoy chocolate, one of the luxury food items that was brought back from the New World.
The problem was however that anything that needed to be brought back from the New World was expensive, so chocolate therefore was a luxury that was limited to the wealthy and not something that most people could afford to buy, certainly not a food item that would be in a peasant’s wildest dreams.
In Cyprus though, realising how the carob bean has very similar tastes and uses to chocolate, the farmers thought to capitalise on this and many thousands of carob trees were planted on the island.
It didn’t take long before the carob bean also became a very valuable commodity and this attracted the attention of thieves, who would sail across the Mediterranean Sea to Cyprus when it was time to harvest them and who would often sail away with the holds in their ships fully loaded with carob beans.
Until the price of chocolate in Europe fell and with it the value of carob beans, these thieving mariners became a major problem for the Cypriot economy. If you are interested in learning more, you can find more about this chapter in the history of Cyprus by searching for “Pirates Of The Carob Bean“.
I do apologise, that’s a really bad punchline isn’t it! What I recommend you do now is to share this page with as many people as you can and let’s see how far it spreads. This story is a Laughline original, October 2023.
If you would like to learn more about carob beans, how they are different to cacao/cocoa and how to cook with them, I found an excellent article What Is Carob?
Image used under a Collective Commons License from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/syrianakhouri/9845971385