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Page 8

Newsletter 123, WInter 2018   © Hampshire Mills Group



The Black Gold of Cyprus



Ruth Andrews
Pictures by Keith and Ruth Andrews




Until the end of the colonial era, and before the advent of modern agriculture with its large scale irrigated crops like potatoes and citrus fruits, carobs were among Cyprus’s main agricultural export products.”  Typical annual production was approximately 50,000 tons from 2 million trees.  Trade was transformed in 1911 when steamships were loaded with carobs for export to England.  As a result N P Lanitis Ltd in Limassol (Lemesos), established in 1896, became the island’s largest exporter.   


Their warehouses have now been revived as a meeting and dining venue, and the machinery has been retained as a museum.  Keith and I came upon it when we were trying to decide where to go for lunch.  As usual in these situations there was no leaflet to take away, but the wall panels gave a good explanation so we photographed them;  this article is the result. 

Dried carobs arriving from the fields, where they had been knocked off the trees with sticks, were weighed and size-sorted.  “Foreign bodies, such as pieces of wood, or stones, that all but accidentally had sneaked into the farmers’ delivery bags were discarded amidst commonplace quarrelling and practical joking.”  Large pods were set aside for export intact, but the rest were kibbled, crushed, and sieved.  There were 3 final products:  small carob cubes, carob flour, and seed.   


The mill machinery used in this process bears a striking resemblance to the sort of set up that we would expect to find in a flour roller mill at home, and was just as difficult to photograph meaningfully.  The grinding and separation process is shown in the following flow diagram, followed by some pictures of the machinery.   I have copied the explanatory text intact. although I have corrected and enlarged the labels.  I hope you can follow it.


The carobs fall into the first pit 1a where an elevator 2a scoops them up and feeds them into the first crusher 3a.  The broken-up carobs are scooped from a second pit 1b by another elevator 2b that feeds them into a first cylindrical separator 4a which produces carob meal A gathered into sacks, medium C, and cube B.  The cube is fed into the second crusher (3b) to be crushed into smaller pieces which are subsequently mixed in a pit 1c with the medium.

A third elevator 2c feeds the mixture into the second cylindrical separator 4b out of which comes carob meal A and cube B which are gathered into sacks, and seeds mixed with medium, which are sent to the third cylindrical separator 4c.

This again gives carob meal A and cube B which are gathered into sacks, and seeds mixed with medium.  These are fed into the large separator 5 where the medium C, which is lighter, is whirled up by air to be sent via a duct into sacks, whereas the seeds D are fed into the final separator 6 to be completely cleaned from any residue.  From there the seeds D are gathered into sacks, but a small quantity still mixed with medium is taken back to the third cylindrical separator 4c to be reprocessed.





These pictures from the wall display probably give a more accurate idea of what the mill was like.

Quoting again:  “The most important use of carobs was, and still is, the enrichment of livestock feed.  For this purpose. carobs are consumed whole or cracked (cubed) after they are kibbled, that is after the seed is removed.  The seed itself is shelled and the embryo is separated from the endosperm.  A natural gum is extracted from the endosperm.  It is used in the food industry, in cosmetics, in paper manufacturing, making photographic film, and dyeing.  In World War 2 it was used in the manufacture of parachutes.” 

Carob flour and syrup are used as replacements for cocoa, coffee, and sugar, in chocolates and biscuits.  The flour has low fat content, high natural sugar, and high levels of minerals and vitamins.  In addition to the pod, carob tree bark and leaves contain tannin which was used for dyeing, particularly sails. 

Finally, the seeds of the carob, due to their roughly consistent individual weight, were used – initially in ancient Egypt – as a measure of weight for gold.  The term ‘carat’ most likely derives from this.


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