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whatever happened to carob?

Growing up in the seventies and eighties, it seemed like carob was the ubiquitous "natural" substitute for chocolate... but now, even in a rising culture of health food, alternatives, and organic such-and-such, you don't hear much about it.

So my question is-- where did carob go? Or, am I tragically out of the carob loop? Is carob just not that good?

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  1. i don't know. most carob i ever had tasted like chalk mixed with carnauba wax, tree bark and coffee grounds. might have something to do with it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: tuqueboy

      Great description. Also not so long ago I believe they found a raft of health benefits to do with chocolate and the opposite for carob... almost like in Woody Allen's "Sleeper"!

    2. I think the reason is that so many people just don't like the flavor. There was a thread a while back, and I was really surprised that EVERYONE who posted disliked it. I happen to like it, though I guess I haven't had it in too many guises. there is a food co-op near me that gets terrific raisins covered in unsweetened carob in bulk that remain for me one of the most addictive foods on the planet. In fact, I totally don't get chocolate covered raisins; even the dark variety are far too sweet. But I adore the subtle smokiness of carob.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Steve

        agreed. i adore carob raisins but find chocolate raisins cloyingly sweet.

        then again, i much prefer dark chocolate [the darker the better] to milk...and since i think it's the slightly bitter taste & earthiness inherent in carob that makes us either love it or hate it, dark chocolate lovers are probably more inclined to have the palate for it.

      2. i remember the "carob hype" b/c my mom once bought carob milk instead of chocolate for the kids and we loved it so much but then never saw it again. i remember a while back wondering whatever happened to it myself... i have seen carob chips at places like Henry's.

        1. Back when chocolate was considered bad for you it was roundly touted as a chocolate substitute. Like most things that are thought of as a substiturte it doesn't do all that well - as a substitute. It doesn't supply the chemical fix that chocolate supplies either, so it gradually lost ground. Heck, carob sweets were often made with "bad" other ingredients, like highly saturated palm oil, so that the nutitional advantages -- even as thought of at the time -- were more than cancelled out. And being made and distributed by much smaller natural foods companies it was a lot more expensive.

          Personally, I like carob. But I do not think of it as a "chocolate substitute". As one it is pretty mediocre. As carob, however, it's pretty good.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Richard 16

            I agree. I love carob - AND chocolate (the dark kind). But they don't taste at all alike.

            1. re: Richard 16

              i guess all the additives were what actually made the carob milk taste good to us! who would've known? :)

            2. Times have changed, and there is very little to recommend carob except the taste (which I like). Chocolate, it seems, is full of antioxidants and is actually healthy. I hear that carob is naturally sweet without sugar, but all the products you generally buy it in are so processed it's hard to know what's good or bad about it. I think the original reason for the substitution was caffeine, but chocolate has so little caffeine in it anyway. Try as i might, I think it's really difficult to find a lot of reasons to get behind carob.

              1. Ubiquitous, ubiquitous where? Among the sandal-wearing, earthy-crunchy, "natural lifestyle" crowd maybe but no further. And why? Because it really doesn't taste a damned thing like chocolate, other than sharing a sort of baseline "earthy" flavor...

                When I was a kid (a little earlier than you I think, I turned 18 in '82) , my mother tried to fob the &^#$ on me as a chocolate "substitute." I just laughed, as my brother and I laughed at her homemade granola, etc. I actually didn't mind it as "something different", once in a while, but that was then. Now, it has to my taste a really unpleasant chalkiness that even the worst chocolate lacks as long as it's not 5 years old. Maybe it's just a different fat profile, or lower level of fat overall? I dunno, but I haven't even thought about the stuff in about 10 years. And I think that's why it's not "ubiquitous." LOL

                4 Replies
                1. re: MikeG

                  MIke G, I think we had the same mom...the homemade granola gives it away!

                  1. re: MikeG

                    I think I'm your mother! No, wait - I'm not quite old enough. But still, when my kids were little, the crowd I ran with (yes, birkenstock-wearing, nutritional-yeast-eating, carob-pushing) used to get together once a week for a play group. We fed the kids horrid stuff made with seriously whole grains, honey and carob. Everything tasted disgusting. We laugh (and laugh and laugh) about it now.

                    I still, however, make this one fudgelike concoction containing seeds and nuts and peanut butter and honey and instead of the carob I use cocoa. Much better.

                    1. re: Nyleve

                      rofl

                      How about milk? Back before you could buy 1% and 2% milk (the choice as I recall was either whole or that disgusting, blue-ish skim stuff), my mother used to make this alchemical concoction with powdered nonfat, water and whole milk. Actually wasn't at all bad and worked out to about 1-2% butterfat...

                      PS: We used to eat fruit and cheese (reduced fat cottage often, or some of that and the fattier cheeses) for dinner regularly. Something I actually miss every now and then...

                      1. re: MikeG

                        Yikes. The powdered milk period! Remember it all to well. It was part frugality and part, well, bad taste. We were convinced that powdered milk would improve anything! And so we added it, willy nilly, to whatever dish was stupid enough to get close to the bag (Yes, bag - we didn't buy it in a box! We bought it in BULK at the food co-op! Double bonus points!). The last surviving remnant of the powdered milk period was my homemade yogurt - add powdered milk, we said, to perfectly good regular milk and you have lots of extra nutrition! What it actually did was to create a dense layer at the bottom of the yogurt container which no one wanted to eat, so we just scooped everything off the top and left the gundge.

                        Ah, good old hippie-mom cookery. May it rest in peace, man.

                  2. Back in the late 1980's I worked at a mental health center and one of the social workers was very sweet and very "earthy" (for lack of a better term). We had one of those breakrooms that was always filled with goodies and one day she brought (what appeared to be) fudgy chocolate brownies. One-by-one unsuspecting people picked up a brownie with the expectation of chocolate goodness only to discover they were carob and basically tasted like chalk. The next response was "Diane made these, right?" Indeed she had.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Janet from Richmond

                      Now they weren't Alice B. Toklas brownies where they???

                      1. re: Hue

                        Actually, the original recipe for those contains neither chocolate nor carob.

                    2. Carob isn't totally dead. I just finished off a pint of Soy Delicious Carob Peppermint last night.

                      1. At one of the pet stores they sell these dog cookies that look sort of like Oreos, except they are made of carob.

                        OK I admit it - I tasted them... lol. Surprisingly, they didn't taste nasty - I would have thought they were real cookies meant for human consumption!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: deibu

                          See now that makes some sense. Most dogs, if they're not spoiled by humans anyway, will eat pretty much anything quite happily and chocolate can actually kill them, or at least make them miserable and cost an arm and a leg at the vet to deal with the liver damage. This way, when Spot starts making a dive for your Oreos, you can give him something he doesn't know doesn't really taste as good. (rofl)

                          I suppose if I could never eat chocolate again I might go to carob - at least in form other than bars - but as is, I just see no reason unless you happen to find yourself liking the specific flavor. And obviously not many Americans do... If I baked more or drank hot cocoa much, I might use carob once in a while for a change of pace, but never "instead" of chocolate. Kinda like soy milk....

                        2. There's carob in many of the treats at Three Dog Bakery! Aren't there still carob rice milk and rice dream treats? I think I've seen the chips or carob covered raisins in bulk bins at various natural foods stores, too.

                          I never liked the flavor as a kid, as it was billed as a chocolate substitute, and we all knew it was misguided. It tasted like mud, which I remembered sampling at age four, or that's what I told mom. I have tasted something carob as an adult, I don't remember what exactly, and it wasn't as bad as I remembered. It had an interesting beany, dusky quality that when not compared to chocolate, isn't entirely unappealing. I'm not buying it regularly, though, and since I can't remember what it was I ate with it recently, well, that tells you something!

                          1. I should probably save this for the therapy I'll eventually need... but...
                            in 1978, for my 5th birthday party in school, my mom baked carob brownies. To her credit she did put redi whip on top. She brought the brownies into school and all the children took one. Each child licked the whipped cream off and then took one bite of the "brownie"-- the more polite ones actually swallowed-- and then dumped it in the trash.

                            1. Huh, I'm stunned! I'm a huge chocoholic, but when I was little my baby-sitter was allergic to chocolate so whenever she made birthday cakes for us, it was always carob, and I loved it! I haven't had it since then, but whatever she did to those cakes, they were tasty, even to a little kid!

                              1. i have great memories of going out for vanilla frozen yogurt w/carob chips with my mom in the '80s... you just totally reminded me!

                                in that context, it was really great. never had it any other way, though. i think they still sell it at whole foods and the like...

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: missfunkysoul

                                  Now that yogurt is making re-appearance, perhaps carob will as well. Pinkberry and other similar places in NYC usually carob chips alongside the regular chocolate ones.

                                  1. re: newfoodie

                                    That's where I've seen carob lately, at Pinkberry and it's clones. I think it goes really well with the tangy frozen yogurt. I like to get blackberries and carob chips.

                                    1. re: manraysky

                                      Mmmm.... yummy! I'll have to try that soon.

                                  2. re: missfunkysoul

                                    That was my favorite frozen yogurt combo too. I don't like carob as a substitute for chocolate, but I like it for what it is. In college I used to buy sixlets, they've got carob in them too.

                                    I still see carob around, and I still get it on my frozen yogurt.

                                  3. Okay, I LOVE Carob, Not only do I miss it, but I STILL CRAVE IT and I havent had it at least 10 years... then again, I think choclate tastes HORRIBLE so go figure, I MISS CAROB!!!!!!!!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: koimillie

                                      i LOVE carob too! and i know its sacreligous but i love it much more than chocolate too, i don't even really like chocolate that much ;-)

                                    2. Hmmm... I have a repressed (well, not repressed any more!) memory of me at age 11 when the doctor was testing me for allergies. He had Mom stop it with milk products (I remember she wanted me to try my corn flakes using orange juice instead of milk) and no candy at all- except carob, in small amounts. Not like we had a room full of Hershey's that she'd let us wallow in nightly or anything! I can't remember much except I think it left a funky coating on my teeth. I cried a LOT those 3 weeks. He never did figure out if I was allergic to anything...

                                      1. GOOD NEWS for CAROB MILK Lovers. I remember in Jr. High me and my friend would each buy a quart of Carob Milk and drink the whole quark. God I loved that stuff and then POOF it disappeared. You can't even find a picture of the old carton it came in (they had carob ice cream too). Anyway I have discovered it is dirt simple to make. I got a can of carob powder from Lassens health foods in Simi Valley. Now just mix 2 tsp carob powder and 1 tsp honey with a pint of milk. I use an empty water bottle and dissolve the honey in a small amount of hot water. Then I shake the carob power up in the bottle with the hot honey water before filling the bottle with cold milk. Chill for a couple hours. Overnight is best. Oh My God. Just like I remembered!!!

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: seanh

                                          This sounds great. Thank you so much for posting.

                                          1. re: Steve

                                            I will try that. Also, carob soymilk is available. I have found it unobjectionable, but then I find (most) soymilk unobjectionable, and I know not everyone does. In the case of carob (or chocolate) soymilk, the flavoring is usually strong enough to mask any grassiness or chalkiness you might otherwise get from the soy.

                                        2. This discussion about carob reminds me of the Friend's episode where Monica had to come up with recipes for a new synthetic chocolate called "mockolate". Pretty funny.

                                          I never cared for carob. Ick.

                                          1. Carob was the only thing close to chocolate I was allowed to eat growing up and now to this day I like carob over chocolate.

                                            My local health food store carrys carob chips, so I will buy a bag, melt down and add almonds, dried cranberries or dried cherries making a carob candy patties or it is really good with just toasted sweet coconut. Think it is time to make again!

                                            1. People thought it was a healthy alternative to chocolate, but now that the general public knows dark chocolate is good for you (in moderation), many products/places have dropped carob for dark chocolate.

                                              1. Ah, this brings back a great memory for me! At my preschool on the playground, there was a big, beautiful carob tree that would drop carob pods onto the ground. We'd pry them open and munch on the sweet carob inside! Kind of a musty, raisiny-sweet taste. Yum.

                                                1. The popularity of carob came about in the late 60s and early 70s when we smoked a lot of dope, never removed any body hair (both male and female), wore ugly heavy boots, had too much great sex, read HEAVY literature, drove Volkswagens that we completely maintained ourselves, AND cooked and ate largely unappetizing to inedible foods - including carob this and that, brown rice (UGH!!!), and things made out of soybeans that have since been used to make furniture. At the end of the decade we danced disco, snorted cocaine, and started looking at real estate. Carob got forgotten. Real estate is the antithesis of carob. That, buddy, is what happened.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                    The unfortunate aspect is that carob is delicious in it's own right - as carob. And having been in the restaurant business my food, if I do day so, was pretty darn good. Too many people cooking without any sense of how to cook but instead thinking of it's "alternativeness" ruined it for many.

                                                    I love brown rice, especially pressure cooked. I often mix it with another ancient yet "new age" grain, amaranth. The Moosewood cookbooks are loaded with good recipes. (Or, for me, ideas.) The Seventh Day Adventist cookbook (Ten Talents?) is likewise loaded. Heck, Joy of Cooking has recipes that would fit right in. IOW, it wasn't the ingredients, it was the horrific "cooks" that produced compost.

                                                    I've said it before - carob makes lousy chocolate and chocolate makes lousy carob. I sometimes use a meal replacement drink with carob, and it's actually quite tasty (as these things go).

                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                      Wow I think this man speaks the truth. Perhaps the turning point was when Larry Groce came out with the song junkfood junkie:

                                                      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLiVeR...

                                                      1. re: seanh

                                                        What a treasure that is! Thanks for posting the link.

                                                    2. I like carob, although I haven't tasted it in probably 10 years. I do see it on occasion at my local health food shop, so now I will have to pick up a bar as a special treat.

                                                      Long live carob!

                                                      1. The carob bean, I last had one as a small boy in about 1952, in England most things were still rationed, especially sweets , sweet rationing ended in 1953.
                                                        The carob bean, curved, flat and well like a fairly large dried bean pod it cost a penny. There were 240 pennies to the pound so it was cheap.

                                                        After grinding away at it, getting some kind of chocolate taste it would be thrown away.

                                                        I do believe they were used as animal feed.

                                                         
                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Naguere

                                                          I used to munch on carob pods as a snack.

                                                          1. re: Naguere

                                                            These pods are so familiar to me! Growing up in Los Angeles -- some brilliant, misguided soul thought it was a good idea to plant a bunch of carob trees around all the schools around here. They thought the kids would eat the carob instead of chocolate. NEVER!! Nasty, eeew. But they are very fun to stomp on! Also useful as hopscotch markers.

                                                          2. Back in 2009, Seanh had posted a comment on this thread about remembering a Carob Milk that she loved back in their junior high school days. I too remember having a very delicious drink in the 70's in southern California and am trying to see if anyone remembers the brand name??? I realize they are most likely no longer in business and I can't find any reference after multiple net searches. Can anyone help with this quest? Thanks in advance.... Peter

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: skidroe

                                                              I remember trying to look it up on the net to no avail. it was a beige and brown 1 quart carton. They also had ice cream

                                                              1. Carob skipped out of town with trail mix. I was a beach going surfer in my early twenties working for a company making the stuff. The good old days. Kind of makes me laugh.

                                                                1. Seanh, Thanks for responding. I was hoping to find a fellow Carob Milk junky to help with the search. Somehow the names Eddie's, Opemhimers, Bresmyer,? etc are floating around my brain... Ring any bells?

                                                                  1. YES!!!!!!! Gilbert Brockmeyer it is!!!!!!!!!
                                                                    Never had the ice cream but the Carob Milk was out of this world. Now that I have the name I was able to determine that it was primarily a ice cream company based in Laguna Beach California, Named after the founder who died in 1990. Seems it went out in the late 1980's but did have some national distribution since I have found advertizing for the ice cream from New Jersey. If anyone knows of former employees or associates it would be great to retrieve the recipes for posterity, not to mention my taste buds!!!!! Thanks so much for remembering the name......