Caper Diem

I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist. What other catchy title could I use for a post about capers? Just Capers sounded really boring,  Caper-bility Brown was the wrong colour and Tossing The Caper sounded a bit rude. Enough of that, let’s seize the capers and get on with this post.

Rather like the salt cod that I wrote about previously, I have a feeling that capers are something you either love or loathe. For me, they are a culinary essential. They get hurled in to pasta sauces, added to pizza toppings, used in sauces for fish, or just as they are, fresh from the jar served with drinks. 

This little corner of Spain is truly The Garden Of Eden. Hardly a month goes by when there isn’t some sort of free food growing. The last bounty we gathered from the groves was wild asparagus, now it’s the turn of the thorny caper bushes to yield their magnificent bounty. 

Before moving to Andalucia, I must admit to giving very little thought about where these green berries came from. Considering that over the years I must have bought hundreds of jars of them, I’m a little ashamed to say that it never occurred to me to look up where they were from, aside from Sainsburys, 4th aisle on the left.  I’d guessed that they weren’t native to The British Isles and that they probably were from The Medditerannean region but that was about it. And then, one August morning almost three years ago, I was walking down a lane here in the village and an absolutely beautiful smell wafted through the air. I glanced around and saw some delicate flowers growing from a creeper like bush. Despite my bending down to sniff the flowers,the penny still didn’t drop.

Fortunately the plot thinned when the following summer I noticed that my neighbour had some jars of capers lined up on the wall outside her house. She’d been picking them that morning and I asked her where I could find them as I rather fancied pickling my own.

July and August are the caper months. The plants are easy to spot as they have gorgeous fragrant flowers and grow in the driest soil. They particularly like walls and the edges of roads and tracks – the wilder and dustier the better. Early morning is the time to pick them and unless you want Caperberries, pick them when they are about pea sized. The caper grows from the inside of the flower so don’t get confused like I first was by the unopened flower buds. 

For the brine you need half a cup of vinegar, half a cup of water and a tablespoon of salt. The capers need to be submerged in the brine solution so make sure you have enough liquid to cover them. Maria leaves hers out in lidded glass jars in the sun for about two to three weeks to cure. They are then stored in a cool dry place and will keep for at least a year or more if left unopened. 

  1. Courtesy of Wikipeadia, here’s some more info on capers to swat up on if you are interested.