Carob: Nurturing Crete's Past, Present, and Future

Carob: Nurturing Crete's Past, Present, and Future

Carob Tree (Ceratonia siliqua) in the foothills of Mount Psiloritis (Mylopotamos, Rethymno)

Nestled in the heart of the Mediterranean, the island of Crete boasts a rich tapestry of history, culture, and traditions. One of its hidden gems, the carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua), stands as a testament to the island's deep-rooted connection with the land and its people. From its ancient cultivation to its modern applications, the carob has left an indelible mark on Crete's history, culture, economy, and lifestyle.

I recall a particularly fond memory of my
childhood, where I was introduced to this incredible fruit by my mother. One hot summer day, while walking through my mother's village of Livadia, in the mountainous Mylopotamos region of Rethymno we came upon an old Carob tree. Reaching up, my mother plucked a low hanging carob pod (which looked to me like a large, brown, dried, and withered green bean). Opening the pod, she said to me “Lefteraki, when I was a little girl, this was our chocolate.”

Carob bean shown in it's harvested state along with powdered carob bean (or Carob Flour)

Of course, being born and raised in North America, we didn't have such things and so naturally curious I took two of the little beans she produced from the pod and tasted them; I remember the subtle sweet flavor of the beans, which to my young palate tasted nothing like the processed chocolate I was accustomed to. My mother grew up in Crete in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, and those days following the wars were hard – electricity for example, had not yet made its way to the villages.

Carob was something that was relatively plentiful, so plentiful in fact, that I remember stories she and my
grandmother told me about how the villagers would feed the pods to their livestock! In days gone by, they told me that only the very poor would subsist on carob, it being a hardy and readily available food source.

My mother left the island relatively young, to make a new life in a far away land as a young bride, away from the sound of the cicadas, and the scents of sage and thyme that perfumed the air.

Relatively unknown in North America, the carob has long been a staple in many countries around the world, and in particular the Mediterranean basin. The cultivation of carob on the island of Crete dates back thousands of years, showcasing the enduring relationship between the Cretan people and this remarkable tree.

Historically revered for its versatile fruit, the carob tree offered sustenance during times of scarcity as mentioned previously, while its seeds—often referred to as "locust beans"—became a standard unit of measurement in trade due to their consistent weight. In fact, the word “carat” (“Keration” in Ancient Greek) was used as a measure of weight due to the consistent size and value of the ubiquitous Carob bean, often used to balance scales during transactions, and by which today we have come to measure gem stones.

In modern times, “Locust Bean Gum” a food thickening agent derived from the fruit of the carob tree, is used in the food industry as a stabilizer, replacing fat in low-calorie products or as a substitute for gluten, illustrating the incredible versatility of this remarkable fruit.

It serves as an excellent gluten free alternative flour in its powdered form, and is highly sought after in vegan cuisine.

Carob flour or Carob powder shown here along with Carob syrup, a natural sweetener used in lieu of corn syrup and other highly processed sweeteners.

Carob flour or Carob powder shown here along with Carob syrup, a natural sweetener used in lieu of corn syrup and other highly processed sweeteners.

Beyond its practical applications, the carob has woven itself into the fabric of Cretan culture. From traditional recipes that feature carob pods and syrup to the symbolism of the tree in local folklore, the carob has become an integral part of the island's identity. Its shade provided a gathering place for communities, fostering connections and conversations, and bearing witness to joys and sorrows that have been passed down through generations.

Throughout the centuries, the humble carob's economic significance has become increasingly apparent. As mentioned earlier, its fruits served as a vital livestock feed, supporting the island's agrarian way of life (and in times of hardship, even sustained the islands population, providing sustenance in the form of carob flour and other uses).

In the early 20th century, Crete became a significant carob exporter, contributing to its agricultural economy. Even today, the carob industry continues to provide livelihoods for many, with innovative and ground-breaking products being developed and marketed, linking the island's past with its present economic vitality.

Biscuits and cookies made from Carob flour and sweetened with carob syrup.
Biscuits and cookies made from Carob flour and sweetened with carob syrup.

In a world driven by innovation, the carob has reinvented itself to suit contemporary tastes and needs. Beyond its traditional uses, carob has found its way into health-conscious diets due to its natural sweetness and nutritional value.

With its high fiber content and low glycemic index, carob has gained recognition as a viable alternative to processed sweeteners.

When founding Creta Autentica, my goal mirrored the worthy mission of the Pan Cretan Association of America: to share the rich and vibrant Arts, Culture, and Lifestyle of Crete with the wider world.

During a recent visit to Crete earlier this summer, I had the pleasure and the privilege to visit partners and suppliers in the interior of the island, away from the tourism centric and massively developed coasts.

Words cannot describe what I found there. The partners I visited, the Athos Workshop of Manolis Plevraki and Paraskevi Bourdaki in Beautiful Aggeliana, Rethymno and the amazing snail farm Escargot de Creta of Dr. Charalambos Kiagias and his lovely wife Vaso in Lantzimas, Rethymno, all welcomed me with well accustomed warmth and timeless Cretan hospitality.

Manolis Plavreakis and Paraskevi Bourdakis and their son Michalis in their workshop, Aggeliana, Crete.

Manolis Plevrakis and Paraskevi Bourdaki and their son Michalis in their workshop, Aggeliana, Crete. 

It was truly incredible to see how both visits showed me the remarkable extent to which the contemporary Cretan locals have embraced the concept of sustainability and the use of naturally sourced, locally grown and responsibly harvested natural ingredients, which they use in their products(skin care, beauty, and personal care products, etc) of which we are proud to showcase and offer multiple lines in our online boutique.

Our conversations invariably turned to the local produce, and carob of course was a topic that I as keenly interested in learning about.

They too shared their insights and experiences with this remarkable tree, being enthusiastic as to its growing prevalence in the local production landscape, its many uses and history, and indeed its role in the future of the Cretan economy.

It was in this way that I was introduced to Creta Carob, a leading island producer of a wide and growing variety of delicious and innovative Carob products, located just outside of the town of Rethymno.

Creta Autentica, the online Mediterranean boutique that I am proud to be both Founder and Curator of, stands as a bridge between discerning consumers and the treasures of Crete, and to this end, we are proud to partner with Creta Carob, whose partnership brings the wonders of the humble Cretan Carob directly to homes around the world.

From carob-based delicacies to nourishing wellness products, Creta Autentica showcases the timeless appeal and the contemporary relevance of carob.

The carob tree, deeply ingrained in Crete's history, emerges as a symbol of resilience, adaptability, and cultural richness. From its roots in ancient traditions to its branches extending into modern health and culinary spheres, the carob's journey is a testament to the enduring connection between nature and humanity.

As the industries of Crete moves forward, the legacy of the carob continues to thrive, reminding us of the value of embracing the past while shaping a promising future.


Carob pod shown here in its harvested state along with carob flour or carob powder, often used as a substitute for gluten-free food products.

With its natural sweetness and mellow flavor, Carob is often used as a substitute for cocoa in chocolate products for those who suffer from allergies to cocoa – in fact, treats for animals such as dogs are often made with this as it lacks theobromine, tyramine, etc which negatively affect them.

Carob beans pods shown on a tree prior to harvest.

Carob contains antioxidants, and vitamins C, D, and E, as well as nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, and protein. Carob is an excellent source of fiber and promotes good gut health. Available in a variety of formats (powdered, syrup, etc) it is a versatile healthy, and nutritious food product.



120 g olive oil
100 g honey
100 g granulated sugar
100 g red wine
100 g orange juice
orange zest, of 1 orange
1/2 teaspoon(s) baking soda
1 teaspoon(s) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon(s) cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon(s) cloves
120 g carob flour
400 g all-purpose flour


Preheat oven to 140* C (284* F) Fan.

Beat the olive oil, sugar, honey, cinnamon and cloves in a mixer, using medium speed and the paddle attachment.
In a large bowl, combine the orange juice, red wine, lemon zest and baking soda. The baking soda will start to foam as soon as it comes in to contact with the orange juice, so make sure you use a large bowl.

Mix until completely combined and add the mixture to the mixer. Beat until completely incorporated.

In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and carob flour.

Lower the mixer’s speed and add the flour mixture in batches, until you create a soft dough that does not stick to your hands.

Do not overbeat the dough because it will harden too much and it will not be easy to knead.

If you want to make small rusks, knead small loaves and cut into 1 cm slices. Do not cut all the way down.

Bake for 20 minutes.

When ready, remove from oven and set them aside to cool.

Once cool, separate the slices completely.

Turn down oven temperature to 100* C (212* F) Fan.

Bake again for 30-40 minutes, until they become dried out like rusks.

Another way to make the rusks is to shape the dough into a loaf. Cut the slices all the way down. While baking, the slices will separate.

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