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Growing Carob Tree / St John's Bread: Ceratonia siliqua

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Overview
A member of the legume family, the Ceratonia genus has one species, siliqua. About 50 cultivars have been developed around the world.

Description
Form: Tree.
Lifespan: Productivity 80-100 years.
Leaf retention: Evergreen.
Growth rate: Moderate.
Mature Size: 30-40' high and as wide or wider.
Flowers: A few cultivars are hermaphrodites with bisexual flowers that are self-fruitful. Most cultivars have separate male and female flowers on different trees with a course bottle-brush structure. The male flowers and flower parts have a foul odor to attract insects. Pollination is by wind and insects.
Bloom: Late summer and fall.
Self-fruitful: Depends on cultivar. Both a male and a female tree are usually needed. Only the female trees bear fruit.
Years before fruiting: 6 years for a budded (grafted) plant.
Fruit: A long, brown, twisting seed pod. The dried pods without the hard seeds are ground into an edible, sweet, chocolate tasting, nutritious, low fat powder. The seeds are processed into an edible gum used as a thickener called locust bean gum.
Months for fruit to ripen: 11. Dried pods should be harvested quickly after they turn fully brown if rain is likely. Brown pods ferment on the tree when they become wet.
Yield: Pod yield increases with the age of the tree: 5 pounds at six years, 100 pounds at twelve years, up to 500 pounds at twenty years for some cultivars with certain orchard management techniques.
Storage after harvest: Keep in a dry, ventilated location. Can be stored for several months.
Leaves: Oval, green, thick leaflets, heavy shade.
Stems: No thorns.
Roots: Presumed nitrogen-fixing. Deep tap root and aggressive surface roots.
Cultivars of Note:
'Clifford' Self-fruitful.
'Santa Fe' Self-fruitful, excellent flavor.
'Tantillo' Self-fruitful.
Wildlife: Attracts insects. Seedpods are eaten by mammals.
Toxic / Danger: No. Unlike chocolate, the seedpods are safe for animals and dogs to consume. The seedpod husk and seeds contain some tannin.
Origin: Mediterranean region. Cultivated more than 4000 years.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 9-11. Young trees suffer frost damage. Older trees hardy to 20°F.
Sunset climate zones: 9, 13-16, 18-24.
Chill hours: None.
Heat tolerant: Yes.
Sun: Full sun. Shade intolerant.
Drought tolerant: Yes.
Water after becoming established: Once a month after 3rd year. Seedpod production requires slightly more frequent irrigation, but in summer plants need water reduced to once a month. These trees evolved in a region with moderate winter rain and infrequent summer rain.
Soil: Well drained, tolerant otherwise, pH 6.2-8.6 (slightly acidic to alkaline). Saline tolerant. Prone to fungal infections in soil that does not dry quickly or is watered too frequently. Avoid planting near lawns.
Fertilize: Undesirable.
First Year Care: Water weekly the first two years to establish a strong root system.
Planting: Intersperse male and female trees in a ratio of one male for every 25-30 females. In some regions, male tree branches are grafted onto some of the female plants instead of planting males.
Prune: Flowers appear on old wood and the trunk. Trim branches that touch the ground and dead wood from the previous winter. Trim lightly to shape in first few years.
Litter: Moderate: flowers, leaves and seedpods.
Propagation: Seed.
Uses: Ornamental, commercial fruit production.

Comments
Another name for this plant is Locust Tree. The seed pods are often used for animal fodder.
In ancient times, the carob seed was used to measure weight because of its uniformity. The word carat, a unit of weight, comes from the same Greek word as carob. Because a pure gold Roman coin, the Solidus, weighed 24 seeds, the carat also became used to define the purity of gold, with 24 carat being pure gold.



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Carob Tree: Ceratonia siliqua - male flower Carob Tree: Ceratonia siliqua - female flower
Ceratonia siliqua flowers – male and female

Carob Tree: Ceratonia siliqua - pods

Carob Tree: Ceratonia siliqua - leaves

Carob Tree: Ceratonia siliqua



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