Dibs el kharrub
Dibs el kharrub, or carob molasses, is a thick syrup made by soaking milled carob pods in water and reducing the extracted liquid. It is produced in large quantities in the area of Iqleem el kharrub (the district of carob), located in the foothills of the Shuf mountain district south of Beirut.
The carob tree (Ceratonia Silica) has a history of use dating back to ancient times. It is also known as St John’s bread for it is said that John the Baptist survived in the desert by eating carob. The seeds of carob are reputed to have all exactly the same weight and they were used by diamond jewellers who agreed that the weight of one seed would be equal to one carat. The name “carat” appears to be derived from carob.
In Lebanon, carob molasses was traditionally used as an alternative to sugar. Mixed and served with tahini or sesame paste, for example, it is still eaten as a dessert called dibs bi tahini. Recipes for dibs el kharrub have been passed down orally over many generations. In the early 20th century, it was customary for the people who produced dibs el kharrub in the Saida area and those who produced honey in the south to compete over which of their products was sweeter. When a couple was to be married, carob molasses would have pride of place among the gifts the groom’s family offered to the bride’s family, as it was thought to increase energy.
Ther is very wide interest in the carob tree as it is tolerant to drought and survives in marginal lands. The carob pod is essential to many types of food products due to its high sugar content. It is used in preparing fermented and unfermented juices and as a source of gum for industrial uses.