Carob is known as the Algarve’s gold, its seeds were used by ancient merchants to assess the weight of jewels – hence the words «Karat» and «Kilat»1.

The center of its origin is probably located in the coastal areas of the Middle East, from where it spread to the West. In the Iberia Peninsula, it will have been introduced by the Arabs.

Carob, along with almonds and figs, make up the millenary dryland landscape so characteristic of the Mediterranean region. These elements assume the leading role of the landscape and heritage identity of agricultural production in Portugal. Although the carob tree has a dispersed distribution in the Portuguese territory, it is in the Algarve that it prevails for its cultural, patrimonial and sentimental value. There is no exact date for the beginning of carob retail, the process of picking certain fruits using long sticks. However, in mid-late July it is already possible to observe this method all over the region. The sound of sticks hitting tree branches is as typical in the Mediterranean region as the carob tree!

Currently, mechanization and automation makes the process less hard and time consuming. The break takes place in the shade of the carob trees, at lunchtime, and the menu has been for many years a piece of bread, olives, fried fish or bacon. At the end of the long working day, the carob beans are transported to a warehouse, where they are bagged until sold. Today, agricultural tractors replace the donkeys and mules of yesteryear. Carob beans are sold to traders in arrobas, which is a unit of mass measurement that equals 15 kilograms. The seeds are then separated from the pods from the pulp. The latter, after drying and roasting, is transformed into carob flour.

Currently, retailing is done in a mechanized way and the end of the harvest is adapted to the climatic and environmental characteristics of the carob trees and the soils that surround them. Sometimes forgotten, carob, once again assumes a prominent place in the region’s economy. Portugal is today, according to FAO data, the world’s largest producer of carob. And in 2013, when the “Mediterranean Diet” was recognized on UNESCO’s representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity, the harvesting of carob was one of the outstanding traditions.

1 Reportage about Carob's Extraction as a summer activity:

Apanha da Alfarroba: