Capparis spinosa

Capparis spinosa

The caper (Capparis spinosa L., 1753) is a small shrub or branched suffrutice to prostrate-ricadente deportment. Of the plant will consume the buds called capers, and more rarely the fruit, known as cucunci. Both are preserved in oil, pickled or salted.

Systematic –
From the botanical point of view the caper belongs to the Domain Eukaryota, Kingdom Plantae, Division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, Subclass Dilleniidae, Capparales Order, Capparaceae Family, subfamily Capparoideae, the Tribe Cappareae, Genre Capparis and thus to the species C. spinosa.

Etymology –
It seems that the term of this kind 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 is reported in the presence of herbaceous stipules reduced to thorns.
In addition to common names in Italian in almost all regions of the plant it is given a name. For example. Sicily Chiapparo, Tapano in Liguria, Veneto Zucchetta etc.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The caper is spontaneous along the coasts of the Mediterranean, where it can be found in formations and perennial in tropical and subtropical areas; He prefers a poor substrate, sandy, rich in lime and has a good drainage.

Description –
The habit of Capparis spinosa is caespitose, with frame immediately branched and woody branches only at the baseline, often very long, first upright, then sliding or falling.
The leaves are alternate and petiolate, to subrotonda lamina and entire margin, glabrous or finely hairy, fleshy. The shape of the lamina is ovata, the margin is smooth, the ribs are pinnate and is not a compound leaf. The name given to the species is due to the presence, at the base of the petiole, two stipules transformed into thorns. In the variety inermis, the most common, the stipules are herbaceous and fall prematurely.
The flowers are solitary, axillary, long stalked, showy. Calyx and corolla are tetramers, compounds respectively by 4 green and 4 white petals sepals. The androecium consists of numerous red-purple stamens, equipped with very long filaments. The ovary is overcome with sessile stigma.
The fruit is a capsule and green oblong, spindle-shaped, carried by a 2-3 cm peduncle, fusiform and fleshy, with pinkish pulp. It contains numerous seeds kidney-shaped, blacks or yellowish, 1-2 mm in size. At maturity it opens with a longitudinal slit. Commonly the fruits are called cucunci or cocunci in Italian.

Cultivation –
The caper is a plant that grows well everywhere, but prefers loose soil, well drained, even if for example a typical volcanic island of Pantelleria, is grown in marginal areas.
If you think of raising this plant and make a small caper, the first advice is to properly prepare the ground since, being a perennial plant, it must be arranged so as to allow the appropriate annual machining. It ‘important to realize a deep implant burglary of about 50-60 cm; This is because the roots of the caper go much deeper. At the same time it would also be appropriate to make a good cross-fertilization bringing especially organic matter.
The best time to plant a crop of capers is definitely in January and February because in this period the ground is still very wet and therefore eligible engraftment of young seedlings.
The planting density must be 2.0 m x 2.0 m or 2.5 m x 2.5 m between rows and along the rows (about 1000-2000 plants per hectare).
The seedlings must be placed at a depth of about 35 cm, slightly pruning the root system and freeing the plant of the entire aerial part with a drastic pruning, deleting approximately 3 cm above the collar of the plant. In view of the fact that the plant is carried out when it is still in the winter, it would be preferable to completely cover the map with a thin layer of earth (about 1 cm) to protect it from frost and cold winds.
On average, it will need two to three irrigations during the first year of planting.
It should be noted as a caper takes about 20-30 years.
With regard to the working of the ground it is stressed as for almost half of the land that hosts the caper plants does not require processing (roughly from September to January) as the plants are dormant and the herbaceous parts are dried . In this period it is appropriate to let the spawn weeds and then be buried with the first machining, making, in this way, a good amount of organic substance, useful for the growth of plants.
As of January we will begin the surface soil tillage to bury weeds. This practice, normal for all crops, it becomes very important for the caper as being a culture that is carried out in dry, keep weeds mean leaving the formidable competitors for the possession of little water present in the soil. I do not recommend the use of herbicides or other chemicals to control them as we speak of small crops and for personal use, so it is preferable that the weeds are eliminated or tilling soil or manually.
For pruning it is worth stating that the caper is a plant that is carefully pruned in late winter (January-February). You should only cut the dry wood and the suckers, namely those vigorous branches that do not produce flowers but that subtract the plant sap. It is also necessary to prune it so as to leave numerous long sprigs about half a centimeter as the caper only blooms on the branches issued in the year.
Before the two years the plant will not prune.
Despite being a rupicola plant, the caper benefits, as mentioned, the cultivation in the ground and watered moderately it has a more luxuriant growth, producing flowers from May to October. It propagates by seed or preferably by cuttings.
The cutting is performed in the summer by taking a piece of 7-10 cm in a woody branch of 2-3 years of age, then it is placed in a box filled with peat and sand. To promote rooting is recommended the use of rooting powders. Formed the roots, the plants are taken and invasano individually in jars of approximately 10 cm in diameter.
The propagation by seed is difficult given that the germination of the seeds is good only if the seeds are sown immediately from harvesting of the fruit, is instead very difficult (germinability 5-10%) when they come into dormancy (ie are dried), the preparation with seeds in hot water and then soak for a few days increases the germination. The germination chance also increases if the seeding is done in the winter months (December-January). It is sown in boxes filled with peat and sand, left outdoors in summer and sheltered in autumn-winter. In the next spring you can transplant the new plant directly into the ground or individually in a vase. Sowing can also be done directly in the crevices of walls to dry well exposed to the sun in autumn. It should, however, place the seeds pressed into a handful of moss which will protect the seed during the winter and will keep it moist, other solution: put the seeds in a ripe fig, or in a cube of pressed mud then insert it all the crack in the wall . The seedlings will be born from May to June.

Customs and Traditions –
Already he is known and described by Dioscorides and Galen who attributed medicinal properties especially in the bark of roots that already used as a diuretic, tonic, astringent, antispasmodic.
In folk medicine it was also used as an antidepressant and to treat heart and spleen; for external use was used to disinfect wounds and sores.
The bitter taste is caused by the presence of the flavonoid “capparirutina” can cure the walls of capillaries and hemorrhoids.
In the kitchen they utilizano immature flowers and inaperti after being treated pickled or salted to soothe the bitterness and to better preserve them. In Italian cuisine, especially in the south-central, capers, join in many recipes to flavor boiled meat, veal with tuna sauce, sauces, salads and preparation for seasoning fish (famous is the Stockfish Ghiotta).
Catone shows a recipe of “medicated wine” with capers and crushed juniper in 2 “congi” (about 6 and a half liters of wine) to be taken at predefined doses every morning to cure stranguria (difficulty urinating).
The aromatic properties are contained in flower buds, commonly called capers. Used in gastronomy for millennia, they collect still closed and stored in maceration in salt or vinegar. Capers are usually used to flavor dishes and go well with a wide variety of foods: meat, fish, pasta.
The fruit, similar flavor but more delicate caper, is said Cucuncio, cocuncio or capperone and is marketed salted, in oil or in vinegar. It is traditionally used in the Aeolian cuisine to flavor fish dishes. The Aeolians also use the cucunci or desalinate the capers and eaten like any vegetables, usually in salads.
They are known since antiquity the aphrodisiac properties of the caper.
Capers contain more quercetin to weight ratio than any other plant. In herbal medicine it is used the bark of the root. The active ingredients have diuretic properties and protectors of the blood vessels. It can be used in the treatment of gout, hemorrhoids, varicose veins. An infusion of roots and young shoots caper was used in folk medicine to relieve rheumatism.
The root bark has significant diuretic properties, the buds contain substances with tonic and digestive properties.

Preparation Mode –
In the culinary field it is also used young leaves as a salad after cooking for a few minutes in boiling water.
The widespread in Sicily and the traditional use made of it in Sicilian cuisine brought capers to be included in the list of traditional Italian food products (PAT) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mipaaf) as a typical product Sicilian. The Caper of Pantelleria has instead obtained the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).
Infinite are the recipes of Mediterranean cuisine that provide for the use of capers, anchovies and garlic with them should always be present in the kitchen, because they are able to add flavor to many dishes. Best Italian capers are said to be those produced in the Aeolian islands.
From the point of view of natural medicine, capers in antiquity were used to prepare a special brew, made of plant roots and shoots of the youngest, who was considered useful to relieve rheumatism. In herbal medicine is used mainly bark and roots. The decoction prepared from the roots was used for washing ulcers and wounds. Essential oils are used for massage instead.
Capers can prepare and store salt.
The capers are picked still closed and are preserved in salt. The preparation of salted capers is one of the many natural preserves that we can prepare at home. The coarse salt turns out to be perfect to preserve them without using additives or chemicals, typical of packaged products sold in supermarkets.
For example, you will need 1 kg of capers and 1 kg of coarse salt. To prepare salted capers collect when the buds are not yet open, leaving 2 mm stem. Wash them well, drain and let dry in the sun for about two hours leaning on a clean kitchen towel.
Then pour the bottom of a glass jar or crock a layer of coarse salt and one of capers, alternating them so until it reaches the top of the vessel and making sure that the last layer of salt and is more abundant than the others. Close and store in a dry place for storage, which can be very long, even a year. One trick: remember to rinse the capers that will extract from the jar before eating to remove the excess salt.

Guido Bissanti

posted on 04/11/2017
Sources
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. The Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, tips and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
Please note: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgici uses are indicated for information purposes only, do not represent in any way a medical prescription; it accepts no liability on their use for therapeutic purposes, cosmetic or food.




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