WHERE CAPERS GROW
This hardy perennial comes from the Mediterranean region of Southern
Europe, the Middle East and Northern Africa. Capers have become part
of our Mediterranean diet along with olives, grapes, almond,
pistachio, sun-dried tomatoes, dips and cheeses. They grow very well
in the hot parts of Southern and central Australia and now we can
enjoy their delights.
THE CAPER BUSH
The Caper Bush grows to
about 1 metre high, with the lower branches creating their own mulch
along the ground. The leaves are tough and rounded. The flowers,
which grow on long petioles between the leaves, are very attractive
with white petals and many long purple stamens. Each flower usually
lasts only 24 hours, but there is a continual opening of flowers
along the stem. Some species and varieties of Caper bushes develops
spines under the leaf axil, but the variety we sell are spineless.
THE BEST GROWING
The best growing
conditions for Capers is in the full sun, planted on a mound of well
drained material over good rich soil. It is beneficial to add good
compost and lime to the soil before planting. The plants require
some watering until established. Then they require no watering
(similar to planting a gum or wattle tree). They enjoy the addition
of organic mineral mix to the soil, in the spring and autumn.
THE CAPER, which has been used as a condiment for over 5000
years, is the un-opened flower bud.
They should be picked
while the bud is still tight. The bush can be harvested every 10-12
days in the hot season. If allowed to flower, the caper bush
produces a long oblong-shaped fruit with many seeds; this can also
be pickled. Some people also use the young shoots and leaves at the
end of the stem both fresh and pickled.
HOW TO PRESERVE
The best way to process
the capers is to add coarse salt to the picked capers (40% of the
weight of the capers) and stir occasionally for about 10-12 days,
when the liquid that forms on the bottom is drained off. Add salt
again (half the original amount) for another 10 days or so. Then the
capers are ready to use, just wash off the salt, or stored in dry
salt. They can be made ready for use by soaking in a bowl of water
to remove the salt.
(Traditionally the caperberry is pickled by soaking in salt water
for a day, then washing the salt off and storing the berries in
white wine vinegar. The salting process can be repeated if
USING CAPERS IN
Capers add a pleasant but
sharp and piquant flavour to cooking, and because it is known to
promote the appetite, it is used mainly in Hors d’oeuvres. It is
used in salads and mayonnaise; as a garnish; as a topping on pizzas
or omelets; in making caper sauce and tartar sauce; and on fish, or
chicken. The possibilities are endless.