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CAPERS  (Capparis spinosa rupestris)



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 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 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.



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 required.)



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.



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