(Capparis spinosa L.)
The plant Capparis spinosa of which we use the delicious flower buds to flavor our dishes and which we commonly call capers.BOTANICAL CLASSIFICATION
Within the genre Capparis we find over 350 species, including qualia species Capparis spinosa, commonly known as caper (and in particular spiny caper), typical of areas with a Mediterranean climate.
Its natural area is the areas of the Mediterranean Sea. In particular we find it in Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia); in Europe and more precisely in Spain (Almeria, Granada and the Balearic Islands), in France (Provence), in Italy (in particular in Sicily, in the islands of Salina and Pantelleria), in Greece and Dalmatia; in Asia Minor we find it in Cyprus and in the coastal areas of the Black Sea and in Iran.
It is a suffruticosa perennial plant, that is to say with a woody basal part on which new shoots are formed every year that do not lignify but remain herbaceous which, at the end of the good season, dry up to regrow the following year. dry stone walls or along the rock cracks. It is typical, on the island of Pantelleria and Salina to find more hidden caperine plants and inaccessible rocky fronts. This is due to the fact that geghi (Tarentola mauritanica) and lizards (Podacris sicula) are greedy of the sugary exudates of the fruit and therefore by ingesting them, they also ingest the seeds that pass unharmed through their digestive system and are expelled with defecation and it is in this way that the plants spread and find themselves in the most unthinkable places.
The stem it can appear prostrate or ascending or semi-climbing but in any case it does not exceed 50 cm in height.
Leaves they are alternate, rounded in shape, cordate (heart-shaped), provided with a petiole at the base of which two stipules are formed, transformed into thorns, even if there are varieties that lack them or have just sketched them.
The flowers of the caper are hermaphrodites, solitary, of a whitish-gold color formed by four oval petals with numerous stamens of a deep pink color in the center, especially in the apical part, while the pistil is carried by a very long peduncle. They are very large and showy and reach 5-6 cm in diameter.The plant blooms from the month of May and throughout the summer and until the beginning of autumn if there is good ambient humidity.
The fruit it is a berry that contains many seeds inside.
There is another species, the Capparis ovatawhose common name is hairy caper, more frequent in the southern regions of Italy but in any case less common than the previous one and from which it differs due to the fact that the younger leaves are very hairy.
In any case, based on Regulation (EC) no. 510/2006 of the Council concerning the protection of geographical indications and designations of origin of agricultural and food products, caper orchards intended for the production of caper from Pantelleriathey must consist of plants of the botanical species Capperis spinosavariety inermis cultivar nocellara.
The edible part that we know and that we all appreciate and that we commonly call caper, are the flower buds still closed, which are preserved in salt or in vinegar and are an excellent complement to numerous dishes.
The caper is a rustic plant that grows in areas exposed to the south, sunny, but sheltered from cold winds. It has no particular needs in terms of soil in fact it grows very well between rocks and stones. It is very resistant to wind and dryness thanks to its root system which penetrates very deep into the soil.
It is a plant that is grown in dry farming, that is to say without the contribution of irrigation water.
PLANTING A CAPPERET
The caper is a plant that grows well everywhere, but prefers loose and drained soils even if for example in Pantelleria typical volcanic land, it is cultivated in marginal areas.
If you plan to breed this plant and make yourself a small caper, the first advice is to prepare the soil properly as, being a perennial plant, it must be arranged in such a way as to allow the appropriate annual processing. It is important to make a deep hole of about 50-60 cm on the plant because the roots of the caper go very deep. At the same time it would be advisable to also make a good basic fertilization by bringing above all potassium oxide and to a lesser extent phosphoric anhydride and more superficially nitrogen.
The best time to plant a caper cultivation is certainly January and February because in this period the soil is still very humid and therefore suitable for the rooting of young seedlings.
The planting sixths must be 2.0 m x 2.0 m or 2.5m x 2.5mbetween the rows and along the rows (about 1000-2000 plants per hectare).
The seedlings must be placed at a depth of about 35 cm, slightly pruning the root system and freeing the plant from all the aerial part with a drastic pruning, eliminating it about 3 cm above the plant collar. In consideration of the fact that the plant is carried out when it is still in the winter period, it would be preferable to completely cover the plant with a light layer of earth (about 1 cm) to protect them from possible frosts and cold winds.
On average, two to three irrigations will be required during the first year of planting.
A caper lasts about 20-30 years.
WORKING OF THE SOIL
Almost half of the year the land hosting the caper plants does not require processing (approximately from September to January) as the plants are in vegetative rest and the herbaceous parts are dry. In this period it is advisable to let the weeds proliferate and then be buried with the first workings, thus bringing a good quantity of organic substance, useful for the growth of the plants.
Starting from January, the surface work of the land to bury the weeds begins. This practice, normal for all crops, becomes very important for the caper as being a crop that is kept dry, keeping the weeds would mean leaving fearsome competitors for the possession of the little water present in the soil. I do not recommend the use of herbicide, however, of chemical products for their control as we are talking about small crops and for personal use, therefore it is preferable that weeds are eliminated by working the soil or manually.
The caper is a plant that must be carefully pruned at the end of winter (January-February). Only dry wood and suckers must be cut, that is to say those vigorous branches that do not produce flowers but which steal sap from the plant. It is also necessary to prune it so as to leave numerous twigs about half a centimeter long as ilcappero blooms only on the branches issued in the year.
Before two years of age, the plant cannot be pruned.
Every year, towards the end of winter (January-February) it would be advisable to distribute a complex fertilizer equally balanced in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
The caper blooms from late spring and throughout the summer, on the branches of the first year.
1. Image not subject to copyrigh