Caper Plant Facts

Caper Plant Facts

Caper plant is believed to have originated from the dry land areas of central and western Asia, and the Mediterranean region. It's also referred to as caper-bush or simply caper, and it is widely distributed all over the world.
Gardenerdy Staff
Last Updated: Mar 5, 2018
The Caper plant (Capparis spinosa) is commercially important as its leaves, flower buds, and fruits are used for both culinary and medicinal purposes. It is salt and drought resistant, and it can adapt to a wide range of climatic conditions, which makes it suitable for growing in any soil type with variable environmental factors.

Facts about Caper Plant

Capers are the unripened flower buds and fruits of this perennial plant. A cultivated variety grows to a height of about 2 feet, whereas, an uncultivated one usually grows as a vine, which can spread to about 7 - 10 feet. As it is tolerant to saline soil conditions, it is also found near sea beaches. The leaves of this species usually cover the soil, which helps in its conservation. In many areas, especially in the Mediterranean, capers are collected from wild varieties in peak growing seasons.

It has a very deep root system, which is an adaptive feature to grow in arid regions. There are both spine and spineless species of this flora. The leaves are small, thick and leathery, oval in shape, and green in color. The flowers are delicate, cream-white in color, and short-lived. The fruits are green and elongated (2 - 3 inches long) berries. If not harvested, a mature caper berry dehisces, and germinates in favorable environmental conditions.

Taxonomy

Division: Angiosperm
Class: Magnoliopsida
Sub Class: Dilleniidae
Order : Capparidales
Family: Capparidaceae (or Capparaceae)
Genus: Capparis
Species: spinosa

Growing and Caring for Caper Plants

It is propagated by using stem cuttings or seeds. The favorable growing factors include dry gravelly soil, less soil moisture (350 mm annual precipitation), good drainage, and intense sunlight. It can tolerate temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius, and it is resistant to common pests and diseases. The quality of the flower buds and berries may vary, depending upon the growing conditions. The best quality capers are produced from nutrient-poor sandy soils. Hence, maintaining such factors is essential to yield better products.

For a high yield, these plants should be pruned to ground level during winter months, which allows removal of dead wood and shoot overgrowth. With proper caring, maximum yield of capers can be achieved within 3 - 4 years of plantation. Once planted, they can thrive for more than a decade. Fertilizers are not required for growing these flora. In fact, they grow best in soil that lacks nutrients.

The unopened buds should be collected by hand, during early morning on dry days. The smaller the unopened bud, the higher is its quality. During peak growing seasons, harvesting of capers can be done regularly at an interval of 9 - 12 days. The harvested buds are then preserved in vinegar solution, or under salt layers in an airtight container. Caper fruits, harvested in a similar manner as that of flower buds, are eaten raw, or used in preparation of pickles and flavored sauces.

Culinary and Medicinal Uses

The piquant sour and salty flavor of capers is similar to that of green olives. The flavor and aroma of small varieties is stronger than that of the larger ones. They are commonly used in the preparation of salads, sauces, and vegetable dishes. They are essential culinary ingredients for many of the Mediterranean cuisines. Other regions where pickled capers are used extensively include Italy, Spain, Central and Northern Europe, etc.

This flora has also been used for treatment of varied health problems since a long time. The parts which are used for therapeutic purposes include leaves, barks, and flower buds. They are used for treatment of eye infections, pain, flatulence, gastrointestinal problems, irritable bowel syndrome, intestinal worms, stomach pain, liver dysfunction, urinary disorders, and menstrual disorders. This plant is also useful for body detoxification.