Carobs

Age-old carob trees are a distinctive feature of the landscape of the Iblei mountains, one of the last natural haven in the whole of Europe where this huge, majestic tree is still to be found. The carob was an important economic resource in ancient times and very common in the entire Mediterranean area. It is resistant to heat and drought and, therefore, suited to the climate of the province of Ragusa, one of the driest in Europe.

Besides being an integral part of the landscape, this imposing plant of the Leguminosae family has always been considered like a 'friend' by the peasants living in the masserie, the local farms. They used it as a sort of open-air cowshed, a natural shelter from the sun for the cattle, as well as an important energy-giving, low-cost food for their animals.

Originally, it did not play an important role in the diet of human beings, peasants used to bake carobs and add honey and quince jam to make a classic poor man's sweet. During the trying times of the First and Second World War, carobs played a more important role and were even used grounded as a substitute for coffee or for chocolate.
Today extracts from the seeds are used by cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries and the flour is often used in the production of sweetmeats and the preparation of dietary supplements. In the Iblei, some local producers have developed new ways of using carobs and carob flour to prepare biscuits, candies, liqueurs.