The caper or caper (Capparis Spinosa), is a deciduous perennial plant, from the Mediterranean region of southern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The fruits it produces called capers and the buds or capers are the most consumable elements of the tree.
Most of this plant is edible and is part of the Mediterranean diet. According to the climatic conditions where it thrives, there may be some varieties better than others. Generally, they need a hot and dry climate for optimal growth.
Characteristics of the caper
The caper can reach up to 1 meter in height and, as the branches grow, they hang creating their own mulch along the ground. It has hard, rounded and fleshy leaves, the flowers develop on long petioles between the leaves, with white petals and purple stamens.
Each flower usually lasts only about 16 hours and the opening of flowers along the stem is continuous. Some species and varieties of caper bushes develop spines under the leaf armpit, but the best varieties have no spines.
The cocoons are rounded edible and well known within the gastronomy as capers. The fruit has an ovoid shape and is larger than cocoons, its flavor is intense, with a grainy texture due to its seeds.
In nature, this plant is often found growing on cliffs where its branches hang, they also like masonry so much that they can be seen growing on the stone walls of old buildings.
Cultivation of the caper
The best growing conditions for the caper are in full sun, planted in a mound of well-drained and fertile soil. It is beneficial to add a good manure and lime to the soil before planting. The plants require some watering until they are established.
This shrub does not survive temperatures below -8 ° C, so in areas where it is cold, it is best to grow the plant in a container and let it hibernate indoors. At least six hours a day of sunshine is recommended for them to grow properly.
The most commonly used methods for propagation are through seeds and cuttings. Seeds require cold stratification to germinate. Cuttings should be 7 to 10 centimeters long and 1.2 centimeters wide.
These bushes can be affected by fungal infections, which can be treated with a fungicide. the pests that cause the most damage are shield insects such as Bagrada hilaras and also several species of flies. biopesticides for control are a good option.
Uses of the plant
Although most often the buds of flowers or fruits are consumed, the whole plant is edible. The leaves and stems are especially used in salads and fish dishes. The leaves of the caper are used as a substitute for rennet in the manufacture of cheeses.
Cocoons or capers have been used as a condiment for over 5000 years, preserved in coarse salt and vinegar. They are used in salads and mayonnaise, as a garnish, as a dressing for pizzas or tortillas and in the preparation of sauces. The possibilities are endless.
Its fruit is also highly appreciated, it is preserved in vinegar and consumed in tapas, salads, as a companion to cheeses and sausages. Caper pickles are usually presented in glass containers, as are capers.
Robert Asprin, APD is a non-dieting Accredited Practicing Dietitian passionate about inspiring positive changes in eating and lifestyle behaviors to help improve health while nurturing relationships with food and body.