The caper plant is a shrub typical of the Mediterranean areas, where it can live in the most unexpected places, such as dry stone walls and rocky ravines. The wooden stem of the plant never exceeds 50 cm in length and can be prostrate or semi-climbing. The leaves are heart-shaped and provided with a petiole at the base of which, depending on the species, there are two small spines. The flowers of caper plant they are formed by 4 white petals, with numerous deep pink pistils in the center; it is precisely the flower buds that make up capers, an ingredient often found in Mediterranean cuisine. The fruits (called cucunci) are also edible; they look like small cucumbers in appearance and are a berry with, inside, numerous seeds.
Given the places where it frequently grows in nature (dry stone walls and rocky ravines), it is easy to understand that the caper plant It is a rustic shrub, which has no particular soil requirements and requires very little watering: it is even cultivated in dry farming, or without water supply, obtaining good results. Thanks to its highly developed root system, the caper plant is extremely resistant to wind, but it fears cold currents; consequently, its ideal position will be in points exposed to the south and sunny, but well sheltered from the wind. As for the cultivation in pots, it will be necessary to use a earthenware pot and always check the drainage of the soil, which must be watered with necessity, paying attention to water stagnation.
Pruning and reproduction
The pruning of this species must be carried out from 2 years of life on, prune the plant annually at the end of winter, eliminating the dry branches and those that have not produced flowers. Pruning will be performed leaving numerous twigs, about half a cm long. Reproduction: the caper plant is multiplied by sowing or cutting. Sowing: in spring plant the seeds in peat and sand and place the containers outdoors in the summer and in the shelter in the cold season. The following spring, transplant the seedlings into pots or earth. Cutting: in summer, cut the 7/10 cm woody cuttings, which will be planted in a mixture of peat and sand. Once the cuttings of the caper plant have formed the roots, transfer them into jars of about 10 cm.
Caper plant: Use in the kitchen
The caper is nothing but the flower bud of the caper plant and its is one of the typical flavors of Mediterranean cuisine. Particularly valuable and sought after are the Pantelleria capers, easily recognizable for their small size, which since 1996 have received the IGP mark. Generally, capers are preserved in salt (typically those of Pantelleria) or in brine. They are used in numerous culinary preparations: from first courses to the famous vitello tonnato and caponata, a typical Sicilian dish based on vegetables. Of the caper plant, however, we also use the fruits, called cucunci, whose appearance resembles that of small cucumbers: preserved mainly in brine, in recent years they are quite successful in appetizers and appetizers.