What we grow - Biodiversity



The caper is the flower button of Capparis spinosa L., a small branched shrub with a prostrate-drooping habit of the Capparaceae family. It seems that the name derives from the Arabic “kabar” or “kappar” or is of Latin origin in reference to the shape of the seed similar to a capital. The epithet of the species refers to the presence of herbaceous stipules reduced to thorns. In almost all regions the plant is assigned a local name (For example in Sicily “Chiapparo”, in Liguria “Tapano”, in Veneto “Zucchetta” etc.). The caper has been cultivated since time immemorial and the origin seems to be between North Africa and the Middle East. References are found in the Bible, in the writings of Hippocrates, Aristotle and Pliny the Elder, both for food and medicinal use. Since ancient times, the belief has been widespread that attributes aphrodisiac properties to the caper.


The caper is a shrub with an average height of 30-50 centimeters with very showy white and pink flowers with purple tips. Between the end of May and September, the flowering and harvesting of the not yet open flower buds (Capers) begins, in a timely manner, before dawn and as soon as they have sprouted. Those of smaller size they become, after maturation, the best product. Once harvested, they are left to mature in pickled in sea salt. Ripening is an obligatory step, in the fresh state the capers are bitter and have an unpleasant taste. The capers left to mature in sea salt (About 40% of their weight) remain there for 10 days during which they are periodically stirred. Once drained, they are put back in salt (About 20% of their weight) for another 10 days. At the end of this second step they are ready to be consumed. If the caper represents the flower bud that has not yet opened, the cucuncio is the real fruit. The cucunci on the market often have the stem still attached. With an oblong shape and a delicate and crunchy flavor, cucunci have seeds inside them, however not annoying to chew if the fruits are harvested at the right time, in August. Of capparis spinosa, not only cucunci and capers are consumed, but also the leaves are edible, as well as being a decorative element in dishes.


The aromatic properties are contained in the flower buds (Capers). Used in gastronomy for millennia, they are usually used to flavor dishes and go well with a great variety of foods: from meat, to fish, to pasta. The fruit (Cucuncio), with a similar but more delicate flavor, can be found on the market in salt, oil or vinegar. It is traditionally used in Aeolian cuisine to season fish dishes or like any vegetable, usually in salads. In the culinary field, the young leaves are also used as salads, after cooking for a few minutes in boiling water. The wide diffusion in Sicily and the traditional use made of them in Sicilian cuisine have led capers to be included in the list of traditional Italian food products as a typical Sicilian product. Numerous studies carried out on caper plants have shown that different parts of the plant, including the roots, buds, fruits and seeds, contain bioactive compounds (especially polyphenols) responsible for the health benefits. The molecules present in capers have been shown to have antioxidant properties above all, therefore, like most vegetables, capers can also help slow down the aging process and counteract the damage of free radicals. Thanks to the action of flavonoids, the consumption of capers can bring benefits in case of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, liver disorders and cognitive impairment. In addition, capers have antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties and this could justify their popular use in case of pain, rheumatism, fever, skin diseases and ulcers. It should be emphasized that the research is still preliminary and to be deepened, but given the numerous properties of capers, it is worth including them in your diet.


The caper is a typical Mediterranean plant, extremely rustic and long-lived, cultivated since ancient times and widespread throughout the Mediterranean basin and in Western Asia. Today, cultivation is particularly widespread especially in the warm regions of Italy (Especially in Sicily) because it requires a lot of sun and fears frost, in the north it is not impossible to cultivate but it certainly requires a lot of care and shelter. It grows spontaneously only on calcareous substrates, such as cliffs or old walls, often forming clumps with hanging branches even several meters long. It is a heliophilous and xerophilous plant with very limited water needs. The caper should not be fertilized, except in the first year. At the beginning, the seedlings grow very slowly, while watering is only necessary in the very early stages of development of the seedlings, from seed or cutting, after which they become not only useless, but also dangerous for plants in the ground.