You can now knock "bitter" off the description, say Mid-North farmers Michael and Jam Jolley, whose new product is finally in health-food stores after 11 years of planting and nurturing 6000 carob trees on their 30.5ha orchard just north of Booborowie (between Burra and Spalding).
It's worth giving carob another try, says Michael, explaining that it's a far cry from the bitter imported product we have been used to, because "overseas producers consider all the value is the seed, which is an emulsifier".
"Here, we value the husk of good-quality pods," says Michael, who, while working on a property with carob trees, realised this was the source of the carob's natural sweetness.
He actually removes the seeds and sends them overseas.
"By using the husk, our carob tastes sweeter, is smoother and richer, without any bitterness," he says. "Healthwise, its real advantages are no added sugar or chemicals. It's gluten- and nut-free and the only ingredients are milk solids, carob powder, palm oil and lecithin (as an emulsifier)."
The Jolleys' carob is lighter than you might expect, but a dark version may eventually emerge in the future.
For now, it's available in powder, syrup and solid buttons, but a confectionery range should be out soon. The locally renowned landscape gardener, and Jam, who has a background in rice farming in Thailand, are self-taught carob specialists. The pair, alone and by hand, painstakingly planted the masses of 30cm cuttings. They also worked full time to support the orchard as those trees took more than a decade to reach maturity and provide last year's first yield of sweet banana-length pods.
It was a huge investment at $25 a tree and a long wait, but the couple couldn't be happier with the end result. And their treasured trees should thrive for up to 100 years.
The pair also invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to import giant Spanish machinery so their Australian Carob Company orchard is not only the country's largest, but is also the only complete commercial carob-processing plant in Australia. Only here, "with no cross-contamination possible", the pods are kibbled and milled to raw and roasted powders, which are used in place of cocoa. Milled product is also sent to a fruit-juice company to be made into a popular syrup.
"The syrup is so versatile," says Michael, who likes to add it to his home-brew beer.
"You can cook with it, just like cocoa and chocolate, but it's also great on ice cream, pikelets and in hot drinks."
Source and Photo: Adelaide Now