How to Make Carob or Honey Locust Pod Powder
Both carob and honey locust pods can be turned into naturally sweet powders that are versatile ingredients to have on hand. Making them isn’t complicated, so long as you remember that it is not the beans or seeds that you eat, but the pods surrounding those seeds.
Carob (Ceratonia siliqua) grows in warmish climates that match its origins around the Mediterranean and in the Middle East. In the U.S., look for it in California and the Southwest.
Honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) and thornless honey locust (G. triacanthos var. inermis) are in the legume family (Fabaceae), just like carob. But honey locust is considerably more cold hardy than carob, and has been widely planted around the northern hemisphere because it is also pollution tolerant (that does NOT mean you should harvest it in a polluted environment!).
Both trees start dropping their pods in late summer and early autumn. At that stage, you can simply gnaw on the pods for a delightfully sweet trail snack. But try yanking brown-but-not-ripe-enough-to-fall pods off the trees and your face will pucker up in disgust at the metallic, astringent taste. Patience pays off with these wild foods.
Perhaps because carob is often compared to chocolate, many people assume that it is the seeds that yield the sweet powder. But although with cacao that is true, it’s not the case with carob, nor with honey locust.
There are reports of the seeds of both these and mesquite seeds having been used as food, but usually it is the sweet pods themselves that are mentioned. We’re going to ignore the seeds. Trust me on this: I once simmered thornless honey locust seeds for 12 hours and they still didn’t soften to anything resembling edible, never mind palatable. And carob seeds? If one accidentally makes it into your electric grinder it will emerge from the experience unscathed.
Here’s a video on how to make sweet carob or honey locust pod powder, or continue reading for detailed directions.
TURNING CAROB OR HONEY LOCUST TREE PODS INTO SWEET POWDER
- To get rid of the seeds, it helps to soak the whole pods. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the pods, remove from the heat. Let soak for at least 4 hours, or overnight (…or longer. I once started soaking a batch of carob pods, got overwhelmingly busy with other stuff, and got back to them two days later. They were fine.
- De-seed the pods by splitting them lengthwise and removing the seeds. This will be easy to do once they’ve been soaked.
- Break the de-seeded pods up into small pieces.
- Dehydrate or roast the pod pieces. You can do this in a dehydrator set on the medium setting (usually 135ºF/C) or in your oven on its lowest “warm” setting (usually around 150ºF/C)
- Grind the dried pod pieces in an electric coffee grinder…or go old school and roll them out on a flat stone using round stones as “pestles” or grinders. An empty wine bottle also works as a pestle (don’t ask me why I know this).
- You can stop at this stage and have a sweet but granular product that will be tasty in baked goods and homemade energy bars (or balls). But keep in mind that neither carob nor honey locust will dissolve in liquid the way chocolate does. For beverages, smoothies, custards and other recipes in which grit would be unwelcome, I recommend sifting your pod powder. Do this simply by dumping the ground pods into a fine mesh sieve and tapping the sides of the sieve over a bowl. Save the gritty stuff that remains in the sieve for products where that texture doesn’t matter; bottle the fine, sieved powder separately.
By the way, I’ve heard that you can use this method to make a sweet powder from mesquite and screwbean mesquite pods, too. Haven’t had the chance to try that yet, but please let me know if you do!
Okay, so no you’ve got your delectably sweet pod powder? Now what? Add it to smoothies. Mash it up with some peanut butter and oatmeal to make your own energy balls or bars. Cookies and muffins are begging for it. And because your pod powder is naturally sweet, you’ll be able to cut down on the sugar, honey, or other sweetener you’d be using otherwise.
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