over on the general discussion board, someone brought up the question of whether carob has any legitimate culinary uses, or was just dreamed up in the 70's as one more way for health-conscious moms to punish their children.
i spent a few seconds googling and discovered Lag B'Omer, as well as a couple of mentions that carob might actually be the "locusts" that John the Baptist ate. so seems that carob was well known in the ancient middle east.
does anybody have any good, tasty recipes involving carob, possibly in traditional Jewish or middle-eastern cuisine?
Isn't bokser -- the flat hard woody tasteless "fruit" that we eat every Tu B'Shvat -- actually carob?
For those who don't know, Tu B'Shvat is the traditional start of the growing season ("New Years Day for trees") on the Jewish calendar. This year it fell on Feb 14th, which might seem like an early start to the growing season, but not in Israel, where the "winter" is much shorter.
Anyhow, the tradition on Tu B'Shvat is to eat a "new" fruit and make a blessing thanking God for sustaining us for another year. In this case, a "new" fruit is defined as one that you haven't eaten in the year since the last Tu B'Shvat. Inevitably, bokser/carob qualifies, since no one in their right mind would ever eat the stuff! Back when I was a schoolkid in Yeshivah (late '60's), they always offered bokser for Tu B'Shvat. Those were the days before the 12-month fruit season we have now. You really couldn't get much in the winter, let alone all manner of exotic stuff they offer now for Tu B'Shvat. Plus bokser undoubtedly traveled well (in fact, it looks, feels and tastes indestructable).
I have also seen bokser referred to as "Saint John's Bread." If, as the initial query said, carob was known for having fed John the Baptist at one point, then carob, St. John's bread and bokser may all be one and the same horrible thing.
re: uncle moishy
And even though we no longer have to eat bokser as a "new fruit", we still do, because we never subtract anything.
There's a lovely custom of having a "seder" for Tu B'Shevat with wine and various fruits and nuts that are eaten for their symbolism. Some have a hard shell on the outside, but the inside is good to eat; some are edible on the outside, but the pit is inedible. Maybe we need a special category for bokser/carob, where the inside and the outside are - almost - equally inedible?!
re: judy f
YUP!! all are bokser. While I hate carob chips, and all other forms of carob used to simutate chocolate.. I adore chowing down on the pods.. I even liked the harder than wood variety they gave out at my dayschool for tu'bishvat.
I was shocked to discover when I ate it off a tree in Israel when I was a kid... that it starts out soft. for the past couple of years.. I have noticed that the tubishvat bokser is softer than I remember it as a kid. I would eat it anytime...not just for tu bishvat..if I knew where to find it...anyone know?????
while i dont really eat carob, it has great uses for my dog/bird who loves it when I eat chocolate and desperately wants it. But as chocolate is toxic to them I use carob which they love!
And it has uses for pareve/vegan cooking.
thanks for all the info! sounds like this was one of those traditional foods that most people are glad to leave in the past! (: