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The Carob tree (from Arabic: خروب “kharūb” and Hebrew: חרוב Charuv), Ceratonia siliqua, is an evergreen shrub or tree native to the Mediterranean region, cultivated for its edible seed pods.
This tree grows up to 10 meters tall. The crown is broad and semi-spherical, supported by a thick trunk with brown rough bark and sturdy branches. Leaves are 10–20 cm long, alternate, pinnate, and may or may not have a terminal leaflet. The flowers are a green-tinted red, small, numerous, and about 6–12 mm long. They are spirally arranged along the inflorescence axis in catkin-like racemes borne on spurs from old wood and even on the trunk (cauliflory). The fruit is a pod which can be elongated, compressed, straight or curved, and thickened at the sutures. Carob is a member of the legume family, and as such its roots host bacteria which convert atmospheric nitrogen into nitrates which can be used by plants to make proteins.
These trees cannot withstand waterlogging, although the root system is usually deep. It grows well in warm temperate and subtropical areas and tolerates hot and humid coastal areas. It is a xerophytic (drought-resistant) species, well adapted to the ecological conditions of the Mediterranean region. present in the altiplanic desert of South America. The carob tree is typical in the southern Portuguese region of the Algarve, where it has the name alfarrobeira (for the tree), and alfarroba (for the fruit), as well as in southern Spain (Spanish: algarrobo, algarroba) and on the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia (Italian: carrubo, carruba). The various trees known as algarrobo in Latin America (Hymenaea courbaril in Colombia and four kinds of Prosopis in Argentina and Paraguay) belong to a different family, the Cesalpinaceae.
Ceratonia siliqua, the scientific name of the carob tree, derives from the Greek kerátiōn (κεράτιων), “fruit of the carob” (from keras [κέρας] “horn”), and Latin siliqua “pod, carob.” The term “carat”, the unit by which diamond weight is measured, is also derived from the Greek word kerátiōn (κεράτιων), alluding to an ancient practice of people in the Middle East weighing gold and gemstones against the seeds of the carob tree. The system was eventually standardized and one carat was fixed at 0.2 grams.
In late Roman and early Byzantine times the pure gold coin known as the solidus weighed 24 carat seeds (about 4.5 grams). As a result, the carat also became a measure of purity for gold. Thus 24 carat gold means 100% pure, 12 carat gold means the alloy contains 50% gold, etc.