In Cyprus, carob grows wild as well as in cultivated groves. It as found in fields not far from the coast line. Of course, Cyprus is not the only place it grows; it is distributed in countries all around the mediterranean including some of the islands. In different places of the world it is cultivated as an ornamental plant. In Cyprus, it was important economically. The buildings on the old harbour which are now bars/cafes catering for tourists were once warehouses where Carob was stored while waiting to be shipped. It is high in sugar and sugar has not always been available from sugar beet or sugar cane. In those days before sugar, honey was the standard sweetener. Carob found a use in the same way and even today in the United States it is plugged as a healthy substitute for chocolate. But its prime use was for animal fodder. Today cheaper fodders are available, and the virtual demise of the horse in Europe can't have helped. Of course, it is still used as fodder in the countries where it grows, but it is no longer the industry that it used to be. I think that every country where it is found use it to produce a sweet syrup or a gooey treacle-like substance, each country having its own traditional recipe. In Cyprus a sticky, thick, black substance is produced called Pekmek. You must have a sweet tooth to appreciate it.
photo by Lez
In days before really serious weights and measures were introduced, Carob seeds were used to weigh out gold. Because of this it has long been believed that the weight of the seed is constant. This is not true; the weight of the seed does vary by as much as 5%, which might be thought an appreciable variation when it comes to dealing in gold. But you can be sure that the buyer knew a proper size bean when he saw it! Anyhow, this how the word 'carat' came about; it is simply another way of saying carob.
The green pods appear in the spring or early in the year, but remain on the tree all summer, becoming black, very hard and brittle, and very sweet. If you have teeth like a horse you can pluck and eat them (not the seed just the pod). This is the point at which they are harvested. In nature, Carob seed pass through a digestive system (birds? tree rats?) before they germinate. See Growing from Seed on this site.
Cyprus gets precious little rain in May and June. It gets none at all in July and August; they are just hot, dry summer months. This is bad news for the people but good news for the Carob. If it gets wet and stays wet for any length of time, it will begin to ferment, and the crop is ruined. It should be possible to brew an alcoholic beverage from Carob, but I have never heard of such a thing. It probably tastes unpleasant*.
*Oops - wrong again. They do make an alcoholic drink!