Farmers and scientists alike are interested in the cultivation of 40,000 carob trees planned by the University of Cyprus, a senior university officer said on Thursday.
Academic and administrative staff of the university are involved in th enterprise as well as the agricultural research institute and the ministry of agriculture.
An information event for the project was held on February 15. The university plans to create the largest carob plantation in Cyprus with the motto ‘Black gold: producing and processing carob’, since carobs can be used to produce a plethora of products and is very healthy.
According to senior university officer Marina Petridou, the event was a great success. “The people of Cyprus came together, young and old, farmers and scientists, it was a nice mixture, we want to make this happen,” she told the Cyprus Mail.
At the event, two new products made from carobs were introduced, the first of many the project’s organisers hope to make. One is a drink, which is according to Petridou much like Zivania, but smoother, the other a bread made from carob powder.
The programme is starting out. The trees have been planted at a nursery and are two to three centimetres high at the moment, chief researcher at the Agricultural Research Institute Marinos Marcou said.
In October, they will be planted in the Pissouri area on land leased from the government.
In the meantime, the organisers are busy looking into possible partnerships, mainly in Cyprus but also abroad. The idea is to involve farmers and small businesses, Marcou explained. Negotiations have started with pharmaceutical companies to exploit the medicinal benefits, and even with breweries for the possible production of beer.
They are also looking into funding. “At the least we want to receive the subsidy which is given to farmers for organic production,” the researcher said, “but we haven’t applied yet.”
The scientists are researching the possibilities for use. Currently, Petridou said, the chemistry department of the university is conducting research on which kinds of products are viable, and the biological scientist is investigating if carobs can prevent cancer.
Medicinally, carobs are currently used for digestion problems including diarrhoea, heartburn and the inability to absorb certain nutrients from food. Other uses of carob include the treatment of obesity, vomiting during pregnancy and high cholesterol.
In infants, carob is used to treat vomiting cough and diarrhoea.
In foods and beverages, it is utilised as a flavouring agent and as a chocolate substitute. Carob flour and extracts are also used as ingredients in food products.
The carob tree plantation will also benefit the environment, as it aids reforestation with trees which are known to be resistant to fire.