The caper bush is a typically Mediterranean plant, extremely hardy. It is cultivated especially in the hot regions of Italy because it requires a lot of sun and fears frost, in the north it is not impossible to cultivate but it certainly requires a lot of care and shelter.
For botanists, the caper is called Thorny Capparis and belongs to the caparidaceae family, it is a truly tenacious perennial bust, growing even between old dry stone walls. It likes rocky soils and is very humble by being content with few resources, resistant to extreme drought. The caper plant forms a bush with a hanging posture and its flowering is an explosion of white flowers that color the landscape.
The part that we all know and that we usually find in pickled or salted preserves is its bud, from which the flower is born, but its fruit can also be eaten.
The caper bud is often used in cooking, it can be considered as a middle way between the aromatic and the vegetal, its strong and pleasantly salty characteristic flavor is particularly suitable for pairing with tomato and therefore continues in sauces red or on the pizza.
Being a perennial crop that is very easy to maintain, it is best to put at least one plant in a corner of your garden or vegetable patch, if your climate allows it. It has no particular problems with insects and diseases, so it is perfect for organic cultivation, with very little work the harvest is assured.
Suitable climate and soil
Sow or plant the caper
Cultivation of capers in the organic garden
Growing capers in pots
Collection, storage and use in the kitchen
Adapted climate and terrain
Adapted climate. Capers only grow in very hot climatic conditions, so the plant can be grown in gardens in central and southern Italy. In the north, it can only be grown in sheltered, sunny areas, taking the necessary precautions to prevent the plant from freezing when temperatures drop. Sun exposure is essential, the plant likes to receive a lot of sun.
Stage . The caper plant likes rocky and arid soils, it is no coincidence that it is found as a wild plant in the south of the Italian coast where it even grows among the stones of the walls. It does not like wet soil and requires very draining soil, otherwise the plant will die. It is not necessary that the soil be particularly rich in organic matter, on the contrary, capers are well adapted to grow in poor and infertile soils. For this reason, no fertilization is necessary.
Sow or plant the caper
The caper plant is a plant that reproduces by seed: after flowering, a small fruit is formed which contains the seed. To obtain the seed, you can harvest the fruit in September and obtain it, you will have to sow it the year next. Planting the caper bush is not easy and it takes some time for the bush to produce buds, so it may be convenient to buy the caper bush directly from the nursery and transplant it into the field. If you have the patience, starting from seed is always the most satisfying technique for a good gardener.
Grow capers from seed. The caper is a plant to be sown in the spring, from the end of February it can be put in the nursery, in March it can be put directly in the field. If you opt for direct sowing, you can sow the seeds in the field and then thin them out during the summer, the seeds should be barely covered with a veil of soil and you should water immediately. Transplanting seedlings in the bed dedicated to the garden must be done after a year, this shrub has indeed a rather slow growth.
Sixth floor . Caper plants should be spaced at least 120 cm apart, as the bush expands sufficiently over time.
So much peace. By sowing in March, the caper will produce its first harvest in June of the following year and it is only the following year that it will continue to produce well. So if you don’t have the patience to wait more than a year, you need to buy a seedling.
Growing capers in an organic garden
Cultivation, as already foreseen, is very simple; In addition, the caper plant is versatile and therefore does not need to be reseeded each year.
There are no particular adversities and it is therefore an excellent orchard for organic cultivation, the only disease problems are caused by excess humidity in the soil or water stagnation and are therefore easy to prevent, with simple care in soil preparation and irrigation operations.
Weeding. The only job that can be done if you want to grow capers in your garden is to keep the bed weed free with regular weeding.
Irrigation . The caper bush likes aridity, which is why it only gets wet when the plants are very young, as soon as a good root system develops it becomes independent in finding water even if it does not rain much. Those who water the whole garden must be careful not to touch the caper plant.
Fertilization. The caper bush is undemanding but may appreciate sporadic fertilization with manure or pollen, spread and whipped around the plant. This can be done once a year or every two years.
Cut. Each year, you can prune the caper bush by cutting the branches in February. Proper pruning is an incentive for the plant to grow well and produce many shoots.
Capers in jar
The caper can also grow on the balcony in a good-sized pot, it should be at least half a meter high. It is essential to have a good result that the terrace is exposed to the south or in any case in a position of full sun. You should put expanded clay or gravel at the bottom of the pot to ensure drainage, and mix a little lime and sand with the soil.
If the plant is kept in a pot, it may need to be watered one to three times a week depending on the climate and the size of the pot, taking care not to over-water.
Collection, storage and use in the kitchen
flower collection . The caper that we know in the kitchen is the flower bud, which is harvested still closed, so it must be done in the morning. The plant begins to bloom in late spring and continues until August. The important thing is to harvest the shoots without making the caper flower often, in fact the plant is stimulated to continue producing only if it does not finish flowering.
picking fruits . The fruit of the caper bush forms after flowering, generally from mid-June and throughout the summer, it is harvested by completely detaching it from the petiole. However, letting the fruits form means losing most of the shoots.
Use of capers. Freshly harvested caper buds are usually left to dry for a few days, then pickled or preserved in salt. Capers are also preserved in salt and eaten as a snack.
How to salt capers
The conservation of capers in salt is very simple, in a glass jar alternate a layer of capers and a layer of salt. The weight of the salt should be twice the weight of the capers. After two or three days, the brine is removed, mixed, and more salt is added. The operation is repeated after two more days. They are left in the salt for two months before consumption, always draining the water that forms.