The fruits of this evergreen tree, native to the Middle East, grow in pods about 20cm/8in long and ripen from green to brown. They contain hard, brown seeds.
In the Middle East, the sweet pods are chewed raw, and are used as animal feed. Carob beans are also ground and used as a healthier alternative to chocolate and coffee as they contain no caffeine or oxalic acid, and only half the fat of cocoa. The flavour is sweet and treacly, so is excellent in baking. Carob is used in a wide variety of ways, and in many products, including as a non-allergenic alternative for chocolate in candies, cakes, pastries and other confections.