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The crown's on its way
The so-called king of the desert doesn't expand all its majesty yet.

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This is a South American carob tree or Prosopis pallida in a forest near Piura City, Peru.
Photo: © Arturo Peñaherrera.

It is considered as the emblematic tree of Piura Region's Coast -it normally doesn't grow over than 1650 feet altitude- and it is supposed the Spaniards found it here dominating the landscape when they arrived here in 1532.

The conquerors fastly related it to the European carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua), then assigned that name to the species that locals called tahko, according to a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)'s research, although some archeologists asked by FACTORTIERRA.NET doubt about that theory.

the carob word, actually, has Arabian roots - alarrooba, coming from Persian alarroob what means donkey's jaw, curiously the animal that consumes it a lot and never stops to chew it here in Piura.

However, the word describes the European species, apparently not related genetically to South American one, the Prosopis pallida actually.

FAO states Italian scientific Antonio Raimondi found idols sculpted on this wood during his exploration at Peruvian Northern in 19th century, although it doesn't specify where.

Even the Prosopis pallida lives between Colombia and Peru, the most individuals flourish between Tumbes and La Libertad Regions, then Ica region but in little colonies. Inclusive, it got to naturalize at Molokai Island (Hawaii, USA), Puerto Rico and Rio grande do Norte (Brazil), where it is cropped.

Nevertheless, Piura is possibly that uses it a lot, although the most goes for feeding cattle and just 35% is transformed for human consumption. In some rural places, it's one of the selected species for reforestation because its strong fixation into the soil and its reproductive versatility.

Carobs fores inside University of Piura campus, the largest of its kind in a metro area.
Photo: © Arturo Peñaherrera.

"As the carob tree grows up, grows down too,"  Agronomist Godofredo García Jr., unforgettable Godofredo García's son, explained about 15 years ago. In fact, carob tree's root penetrates into the soil as much as it can find water.  Some researches assure found 230-feet-length roots in the dry forests.

It's also part of the urban landscape. Even the finest corners in Piura City have one carob tree standing-up at least, or fighting to stand-up.

One of the city's oldest carob trees is located on Grau Club's frontfence, just a block away to the west from Ica and Sullana Streets cross. It's possibly more than 230 years old.

In March 2015, University of Piura and Piura Province Municipality launched an initiative to highlight the oldest carob trees across the metro area. Inclusive, it's pressumed a tree of this kind on Tacna Street, Castilla City, is more than 270 years old, and that sample is still standing-up.

The unlucky ones were the carob trees on José de Lama Avenue, Sullana City, those could be a century old. When remodeling works  started in 2015, they were removed from their roots despite the citizen protest.

Even being abundant in Piura Region, inhabitants just use less than a fifth of all carob tree's benefits.
Photo: © Arturo Peñaherrera.

The Equatorial Dry Forest is the predominant landscape in Piura Coast. Taking the estimations of University of Córdoba (spain)'s Dr Rafael Navarro, for each 25 acres  existent in Peru, 18 belong to Piura.

The dry forest, typical of Equatorial South America's lowlands, controls the climate variations and reduces the vulnerability of related impacts, like droughts or extraordinary rains. Its problem is a trend to be vulnerable in case of floods.

The carob tree is one of the most important species in the dry forest or the easiest to identify at least.

Official sources trusted FACTORTIERRA.NET that it's necessary to update the surface occupied by carob trees across Piura Region, especially after the last Coastal El Niño event. However, they estimate we could talking about 6000 square miles, from 1/4 to 1/5 of the region's territory. This means about 750 square miles aditional to prior years.

What could not reduce is te carob tree's deforestated surface, about 75 sq mi, or 10000 soccer fields, or quite less than Malawi's territory.

The Peruvian carob, at least is yellow unlike other varieties, but all the uses the human being can extract from it are just starting to explore.
Photo Courtesy by University of Piura.

Absolutely everything from the tree is used: leaves as a fertilizer, the trunk mostly for fuel, and fruits are a very versatile food. Plus, each carob tree is capable to host a full ecosystem, human being included, as Rafael Otero  López's Mis Algarrobos (My Carob Trees) Peruvian creole waltz celebrates. Coming down next, a free literal version of the lyrics by FACTORTIERRA.NET:

green, my green carob trees.
Green like the faith of the hope.
Among their branches, nests hang
formed by the birds on their way.
Green, my green carobs.

One another one
its dominant shadow
under that spelendid branchage
a sad peasant
lays his body,
among the trunks ofr my carob trees.

Pass the birds
in a continous flight.
One after one
carry in their peaks
the dry leaves
thrown by the wind,
the carobs
fallen on the soil,
among the trunks of my carob trees.

Pretty madly, the river comes down curving.
A shack, a candle, a wolf hound.
A little chick I love delirious.
Among the trunks of my carob trees.

The trunk and the leaves are not exported but the transformed fruit, not in brute, from the famous algarrobina or carob syrup until a new line going from integral to combined-with-other-cereals flour, and carob coffee, that only gives flavor  but does not have the stimulant effect of the cafein because it is inexistent. Despite, all products made of carob are rich of nytrogen, potasium, iron, saccharose, as well as they have a laxative effect.

At least for the people who lived connected to the countryside, an using or just a common memory was walking beneath the carob tree tops and beside their trunks  to gather carobs. Many  ones ended in a big caserole boiling  for getting algarrobina.
But before that candy, the rural people in their 60s tell that their breakfast had a fresh carob puree, sometimes mixed with milk - the ancient yoopeeceen. It is virtually extinguished nowadays.

The algarrobina is maybe the most famous human consumption  product made of carob. It's a bitter and sweet syrup, which displays come  in all known brown tones, according to the desired use, and it's reknown as an natural energizer due to its big saccharose and iron concentration.

It uses to be added as a supplement in fruit juices and milk shakes, being its most appreciated recipe the cocktail prepared with Peruvian pisco and blended yolk. Drink it cool, please.

The international potentials of the carob are still under research although its commercial processing is almost half-a-century old.
Photo: © Arturo Peñaherrera.

Exportations of Piura's algarrobina  in 2005 figured out  a US$ 26505 income. That year, the region had produced  136446 tons  of carob in more than 1350 square miles opf dry forest, according to La República. The newspaper pointed out that just 22% or 30018 tons are consumed in the domestic market.

In March 2009, the production raised to 300000 tons, according to Technological Innovation Center's director Dr Gastón Cruz, but its availability had reduced to 30000 tons or 10%, being still countryside people and cattle their top consumer target.

But seven years later, Cruz readjusted the number to 200000 tons, after a cliff down to 50000 in 2014 and 2015 because of drought and some plagues, as he said to Radio Cutivalú.

In December 2007, it was announced that algarrobina from Chutuque (Cristo Nos Valga in Sechura) would be exported to GermanyThen, its direct competitors were Asociación María de los Ángeles near Chulucanas, and Santa María de Locuto in front of Tambogrande, considered as that kind's pilot experience.

Santa María de Locuto began to supply supermarkets in Piura City, then it was eventually opening its market toward Lima City. Its model is considered successful as a communitarian organization and environmental protection.

Despite it was explored more products from the carob in the last 30 years, the offer is still scarce or unknown.

The efforts to migrate from a handmade  to an a basically industrialized preparation have been mainly kept inside University of Piura campus, that hosts one of the largest carob forest in a metro area.

From new drying techniques  to machines  for processing algarrobina and other products, the most of research+development in favor of the Piura's emblematic tree  have been concentrated here, that paradoxically doesn't have any specialized school on agriculture.

Its studies started in 1983 and are sharing worldwide. To complete the paradox muchly, it's the one that published most  about this issue in terms of broad audiences, Spanish-speaker at least.

Its eternal competitor, National University of Piura in Castilla had announced in 2009 it was beginning a handmade line of natural products, algarrobina included within. But despite University of Piura, it just began to study their international potentials.
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