Gardening secrets of how to grow Capers a medicinal and aromatic plant in your garden
You either love them or hate them, but capers are those small, green ‘berries’ that usually come pickled in jars or packed in salt. But capers aren’t a berry, they are unopened flower buds. The flowers are extremely ornamental.
This hardy deciduous perennial comes from the Mediterranean region of Southern Europe, the Middle East and Northern Africa. Capers are part of the Mediterranean diet along with olives, grapes, almond, pistachio, sun-dried tomatoes, basil and garlic. Caper plants grow very well in the hot dry parts of Australia and now we can enjoy their delights. They do not like excess water, humidity or a cold climate.
Capers are a stable in many parts of the world, especially in African, Indian, and European cuisines. But did you know that capers are actually unopened flower buds found on the caper bush? You may have never wondered where capers come from exactly, but if you ever have, you’re in luck! Today we’ll teach you a little about the caper bush as well as how to grow capers in the comfort of your own garden
How to Grow Capers in Your Garden
Caper bushes usually grow in Mediterranean regions, much like olives do! They prefer dry climates and stony soil and grow much like blackberries do in North America – in viney brambles.
The capers that we eat are actually the buds of a shrub-like perennial that grows from 3 to 5 feet in height.
- First off, you’ll need to locate caper seeds. This may be a bit hard, especially if you don’t live in the Mediterranean area. Of course at this point, the Internet will be your best friend!
- Once you’ve located caper seeds, grow them in a large pot with a base of coarse rock and crumbled brick.
- Don’t overwater your caper bush – caper plants’ foliage is a natural water conservator.
- If you happen to get dry seeds, soak them in warm water for 1 day, wrap them in a damp towel, and seal them in a jar in the refrigerator for 2-3 months. After the months have passed, re-soak the seeds overnight and plant them at a depth of 1 cm in well drained soil.
Caring for Capers:
- Place your caper bush in full sunlight, in a dry, arid environment.
- The plant is very drought tolerant, so make sure not to over-water as it prefers dryness.
Capers can be harvested at five different stages and size does matter. The capers that we consume are harvested at the immature stage. In Italy for example, where capers are highly prized, capers are graded from 7-16, with the nonpareils type being the most coveted. What this means is that the smaller the caper, the higher the graded and the better taste. Unfortunately, capers are harvested by hand and therefore it is a tedious job, but the smaller they are, the more delicious they will be.
Cooking with Capers
Capers add a pleasant but sharp and piquant flavour to cooking, and because it is known to promote the appetite, it is used in Hors d’oeuvres. It is also used in salads and mayonnaise; as a garnish; as a topping on pizzas or omelettes; in making caper sauce and tartar sauce; and on fish, or chicken. The possibilities are endless.