Magazine article Sunset

Caper Questions; Where Do Capers Come from? Can You Grow the Plants? How?

Magazine article Sunset

Caper Questions; Where Do Capers Come from? Can You Grow the Plants? How?

Article excerpt

Where do capers come from? Can you grow the plants? How?

Most people have tasted capers, but few have seen them growing or knowwhat they are. These tiny, pungent spheres are actually the pickled flower buds of an attractive shrub (Capparis spinosa) that is common in the Mediterranean region but oddly rare in this country.

The caper shrub has long branches that sprawl over the ground, trail down walls or slopes, or arch gracefully to form 3- to 5-foot mounds up to 10 feet across. Nearly round 2-inch leaves are dark green and fleshy. Most fall in winter, when the shrub is dormant. Temperatures in the midteens will not harm the plant, although branches may freeze nearly to the ground. From spring to fall, buds form in each leaf joint. If not harvested for pickling, these open into attractive 2- to 3 -inch flowers with four crepe-like white petals. Each flower lasts only half a day.

To harvest, pick over plants every day and remove buds. Small buds are considered best in flavor. A 3-foot-wide plant will probably yield 25 buds a day throughout warm weather, though production may slow for a few days, then resume,

The easiest way to pickle the buds is to drop them into a jar partially filled with vinegar and let them steep in the refrigerator for at least two weeks or until the flavor seems right (raw capers are unpalatable). …

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