In Spain it is generally known as the Algarrobo Tree, elsewhere as the Carob Tree or even St John’s-bread.

Algarrobo Tree, Nerja

The Algarrobo, Ceratonia siliqua, is a species of flowering evergreen shrub or tree belonging to the pea family, Fabaceae, and is widely cultivated for its edible beans or as an ornamental tree in gardens.

It is native to the Mediterranean region, North Africa and the Middle East as far as Iran and can grow to a height of around ten metres. In Andalucia, you will see these trees growing wild in many areas.

Algarrobo Tree, Nerja

The beans take a year to ripen, starting off green and then becoming hard and brown, usually becoming ripe in September or October each year. In Spain, the Algarrobo pods were formerly used mainly as animal fodder, especially to feed donkeys. Horses love them too, makes a nice treat for them if you are out riding.

Algarrobo pod, Nerja

The pods were an important source of sugar before sugarcane and sugar beets became widely available. Nowadays, they are also used in various countries to make syrups, added to cakes and biscuits and even as a chocolate substitute.

If you chew on the pod itself, not the seeds, then you will find that it really does taste like chocolate.

Spain, Italy, Portugal, Morocco and Greece are the main producers of Carob beans.