name = Caper

regnum = Plantae
unranked_divisio = Angiosperms
unranked_classis = Eudicots
unranked_ordo = Rosids
ordo = Brassicales
familia = Capparaceae
genus = "Capparis"
species = "C. spinosa"
binomial = "Capparis spinosa"
binomial_authority = Linnaeus, 1753|
The caper ("Capparis spinosa" L.) is a perennial spiny shrub that bears rounded, fleshy leaves and big white to pinkish-white flowers. A "caper" is also the pickled bud of this plant. The bush is native to the Mediterranean region, growing wild on walls or in rocky coastal areas throughout. The plant is best known for the edible bud and fruit ("caper berry") which are usually consumed pickled. Other species of "Capparis" are also picked along with "C". "spinosa" for their buds or fruits.

The plant

"Capparis spinosa" is highly variable in nature in its native habitats and is found growing near the closely related species "C". "sicula", "C". "orientalis", and "C". "aegyptia". Scientists can use the known distributions of each species to identify the origin of commercially prepared capers. [cite journal|last = Fici|first = S|title = Intraspecific variation and evolutionary trends in "Capparis spinosa" L. (Capparaceae)|journal = Plant Systematics and Evolution|volume = 228|issue = 3-4|pages = 123–141|publisher = Springer Wien|date= October, 2001|doi = 10.1007/s006060170024|accessdate = 2006-11-21] [cite journal|last = Inocencio|first = C|coauthors = F Alcaraz, F Calderón, C Obón, D Rivera|title = The use of floral characters in "Capparis" sect. "Capparis' to determine the botanical and geographical origin of capers|journal = European Food Research and Technology|volume = 214|issue = 4|pages = 335–339|publisher = Springer|date= April, 2002|doi = 10.1007/200217-001-1465-7|accessdate = 2006-11-21|doi_brokendate = 2008-06-20] The shrubby plant is many-branched, with alternate leaves, thick and shiny, round to ovate in shape. The flowers are complete, sweetly fragrant, showy, with four sepals, and four white to pinkish-white petals, many long violet-colored stamens, and a single stigma usually rising well above the stamens. [cite web|last = Watson|first = L.|coauthors = MJ Dallwitz|title = The Families of Flowering Plants|date= 1992 onwards|url =|accessdaymonth = 21 November | accessyear=2006]


Capers can be grown easily from fresh seed, gathered from ripe fruit and planted into well drained seed-raising mix.Seedlings will appear in 2-4 weeks. Old, stored seeds enter a state of dormancy and require cold stratification in order to germinate.Cuttings from semi-hardwood shoots taken in Autumn may root, but this is not a reliable means of propagation. Caper plants prefer full sun in warm/temperate climates and should be treated much like cacti. They require regular watering in summer and very little during winter and are deciduous, though in warmer climates they may simply stop growing.Capers have a curious reaction to sudden increases in humidity - they form wart-like pock marks across the leaf surface. This appears to be harmless as the plant quickly adjusts to the new conditions and produce unaffected leaves. Seedling capers can be expected to flower from the second to third year and live for at least decades, and probably much longer.

Culinary uses

The salted and pickled caper bud (also called caper) is often used as a seasoning or garnish. Capers are a common ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine. The mature fruit of the caper shrub is also prepared similarly, and marketed as "caper berries".

The buds, when ready to pick, are a dark olive green and about the size of a kernel of corn. They are picked, then pickled in salt, or a salt and vinegar solution, or drained. Intense flavor is developed, as mustard oil (glucocapparin) is released from each caper bud. This enzymatic reaction also leads to the formation of rutin often seen as crystallized white spots on the surfaces of individual caper buds.

Capers are a distinctive ingredient in Sicilian and southern Italian cooking, used in salads, pasta salads, pizzas, meat dishes and pasta sauces. Examples of uses in Italian cuisine are chicken piccata and salsa puttanesca. They are also often served with cold smoked salmon or cured salmon dishes (especially lox and cream cheese). Capers are also sometimes substituted for olives to garnish a martini.

Capers are categorized and sold by their size, defined as follows, with the smallest sizes being the most desirable: Non-pareil (up to 7 mm), surfines (7-8 mm), capucines (8-9 mm), capotes (9-11 mm), fines (11-13 mm), and grusas (14+ mm).

Unripe nasturtium seeds can be substituted for capers; they have a very similar texture and flavour when pickled.

If the caper bud is not picked, it flowers and produces a fruit called a caperberry. The fruit can be pickled and then served as a Greek mezze.

In addition, the Greeks make good use of the caper’s leaves, which are especially desirable and hard to find outside of Greece. They are pickled or boiled and preserved in jars with brine cf. caper buds. Caper leaves are excellent in salads and in fish dishes. Dried caper leaves are also used as a substitute for rennet in the manufacturing of high quality cheese [Mike, Tad, "Capers: The Flower Inside", Epikouria Magazine, Fall/Winter 2006] . Capers grown on the island of Santorini are reputed to be of a very high quality, presumably because of the volcanic ash subsoil.

Medicinal uses

In Greek popular medicine a herbal tea made of caper root and young shoots is considered to be beneficial against rheumatism. Dioscoride ("MM" 2.204t) also provides instructions on the use of sprouts, roots, leaves and seeds in the treatment of strangury and inflammation.Fact|date=November 2007
Rutin is a powerful antioxidant bioflavonoid proven to search out super-oxide radicals in the body. Perhaps this explains the Ancient Greeks’ understanding of the caperbush as a vital medicinal plant.Capers contain more quercetin per weight than any other plants.Fact|date=October 2008


The caper was used in ancient Greece as a carminative. It is represented in archaeological levels in the form of carbonised seeds and rarely as flowerbuds and fruits from archaic and Classical antiquity contexts. Athenaeus in "Deipnosophistae" pays a lot of attention to the caper, as do Pliny ("NH" XIX, XLVIII.163) and Theophrastus. [Fragiska, M. (2005). Wild and Cultivated Vegetables, Herbs and Spices in Greek Antiquity. "Environmental Archaeology" 10 (1): 73-82]

The caper-berry is mentioned in the Bible in the book of Ecclesiastes 12:5 as "avionah" according to modern interpretation of the word.Fact|date=August 2008

Etymologically, the caper and its relatives in several European tongues can be traced back to Classical Latin "capparis", “caper”, in turn borrowed from the Greek κάππαρις, "kápparis", whose origin (as that of the plant) is unknown but is probably Asian. Another theory links kápparis to the name of the island of Cyprus (Κύπρος, "Kýpros"), where capers grow abundantly. [Spice Pages: Capers, University of Graz, Austria [] ]


External links

* [ Gernot Katzer's Spice Dictionary — Caper]
* [ Caper factsheet] — NewCROP, Purdue University
* [ Article about the capers of Salina Island]
* [ Capparidaceae] (alternative name for Capparaceae) in [ L. Watson and M.J. Dallwitz (1992 onwards). The families of flowering plants.]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Caper — Ca per, n. [F. c[^a]pre, fr. L. capparis, Gr. ?; cf. Ar. & Per. al kabar.] 1. The pungent grayish green flower bud of the European and Oriental caper ({Capparis spinosa}), much used for pickles. [1913 Webster] 2. (Bot.) A plant of the genus… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • caper — CÁPER, caperi, s.m. Arbust spinos care creşte în regiunile calde ale Europei, cu flori mari albe sau roşietice (Capparis spinosa). – Din it. cappero. Trimis de valeriu, 11.02.2003. Sursa: DEX 98  cáper s. m., pl. cáperi Trimis de siveco,… …   Dicționar Român

  • CAPER — (Heb. צָלָף; ẓalaf), the shrub Capparis spinosa, which grows wild in Israel in rocky places, as well as in old stone walls, including the Western Wall. The personal name Zalaph occurs in the Bible (Neh. 3:30). The caper s fruit, the evyonah, is… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • caper — caper1 [kā′pər] vi. [prob. < CAPRIOLE] to skip or jump about in a playful manner; frisk; gambol n. 1. a playful jump or leap 2. a wild, foolish action or prank ☆ 3. Slang a criminal plan or act, esp. a robbery cut a caper or cut capers …   English World dictionary

  • caper — ● caper verbe transitif Poser la cape d un cigare. ● caper (synonymes) verbe transitif Poser la cape d un cigare. Synonymes : rober caper v. tr. (Maurice) d1./d Mordre (en parlant d un chien). Le chien lui a capé le mollet …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • caper — ‘jump about’ [16] and the edible caper [15] are two different words. The former is a shortening of capriole ‘leap’, now obsolete except as a technical term in horsemanship, which comes via early French capriole from Italian capriola, a derivative …   The Hutchinson dictionary of word origins

  • caper — Ⅰ. caper [1] ► VERB ▪ skip or dance about in a lively or playful way. ► NOUN 1) a playful skipping movement. 2) informal an illicit or ridiculous activity or escapade. ● cut a caper Cf. ↑cut a …   English terms dictionary

  • caper — ‘jump about’ [16] and the edible caper [15] are two different words. The former is a shortening of capriole ‘leap’, now obsolete except as a technical term in horsemanship, which comes via early French capriole from Italian capriola, a derivative …   Word origins

  • Caper — Ca per, v. i. [imp. & p. p. {Capered} p. pr. & vb. n. {capering}.] [From older capreoll to caper, cf. F. se cabrer to prance; all ultimately fr. L. caper, capra, goat. See {Capriole}.] To leap or jump about in a sprightly manner; to cut capers;… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Caper — Ca per, n. A frolicsome leap or spring; a skip; a jump, as in mirth or dancing; a prank. [1913 Webster] {To cut a caper}, to frolic; to make a sportive spring; to play a prank. Shak. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Caper — (Caperschiff, engl. Privateer, franz. Armateur), Schiffe, welche zu Kriegszeiten mit Erlaubniß des kriegführenden Staates von Privaten ausgerüstet werden, um der feindlichen Macht durch Angriffe auf ihre Kriegs od. Handelsflotte Schaden zuzufügen …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

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