It is unlikely that you did not taste or at least hear about capers in your life. Much appreciated by almost everyone, capers are distinguished by their very particular flavour, very savoury, ideal for garnishing and seasoning in all sorts of dishes including pasta, fish or meat. But what are capers used for?
Let's take a short journey into botany starting from origin of caper responding to question where do capers grow? Caper was born, precisely, from the caper plant of Pantelleria, technical name Capparis Spinosa. Typical of the southern Mediterranean area this plant is a particularly tenacious shrub, capable of growing in the strangest places, such as on roofs or between cracks in walls, in a hot summer climate on a basically arid territory.
Caper prefers the areas closest to the sea and consists of a central body of the woody type, branches more similar to grass having average height from 30 up to 50 centimetres. The Pantelleria caper plant has fleshy leaves, which are also used in cooking both for their organoleptic features and for their intense green colour and oval shape, elements that make them excellent garnish solution.
The flowers are particularly known for their appearance: unmatched, they have a white and pink colour with small reflections in shades of purple. The fruit or caper berry, on the other hand, is very similar to a berry that contains a fair amount of seeds.
Now we know where do they come from but what are capers? Contrary to what one might think, the Pantelleria caper is not the fruit, but the shoot before it turns into a flower. The characteristics of the Pantelleria caper vary in size and flavour: the smaller calibre capers are usually much tastier than their medium and large calibre version, making them more sought and tasty. But even the larger capers guarantee a certain flavour being extremely useful as a garnish for dishes and appetizers, adding a beautiful note of green to a certain dish.
Moving on to the agricultural field, the flowering of the Pantelleria plants begins towards the end of May and continues until the beginning of September. Considering where do capers grow, in this period just when the weather gets warmer, harvesting of the shoots begins before they hatch. It is very important to pick the floral buttons as soon as possible to fully preserve all the qualities and characteristics of Pantelleria capers.
The harvest is repeated approximately every 8-10 days based on where capers grow since the Pantelleria caper plant continues its germination throughout the period. Periodically, the farmers go by to collect the buds, checking same plants several times.Now we know what capers are and where do they come from, but what happens after harvesting?
All collected capers are preserved in salt where they are dehydrated and deprived of the vegetation water. Subsequently, they are practically ready to be used for any type of dish, adding special typical notes of Pantelleria.
The simplicity of use in the kitchen is well known: just take the desired quantity of capers, rinse off the salt with a jet of running water and add them wherever you want, from sauce, to meat or fish, grilled or fried. It is very versatile condiment capable of incredibly enriching any dish also easy to use.
Preservation rules to save characteristics of Pantelleria capers are very simple: just keep the salted capers in a glass jar, close the lid tightly and keep them. In this way, with a lid that prevents the loss of moisture, the qualities of the capers will remain unchanged even for several years.
Attention! Do not trust capers that are preserved with more aggressive liquids such as brines or vinegar: the best ingredient for their conservation is definitely salt, which does not alter their characteristics in any way. An aggressive preservative irreversibly alters the characteristics of Pantelleria capers, which could suggest a trick to mask a flavour that is not exactly the best.
We conclude with an interesting curiosity: did you know that it is typical of the island to shoot the seeds of a Pantelleria caper plant into the cracks in the walls or between the tiles of a roof with a blowpipe to encourage the cultivation of shrubs? Strange, isn’t it?