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Valentine.gr  

September 2012


Did you know that Caper (Capparis spinosa), a typical Mediterranean plant and ingredient of Mediterranean cuisine, in fact originated in the dry areas of Western or Central Asia?

Caper (Capparis spinosa). Flower and buds.

Caper - Capparis spinosa

Capparis spinosa, the caper bush, also called Flinders rose, is a perennial winter-deciduous plant that bears rounded, fleshy leaves and large white to pinkish-white flowers. The plant is best known for the edible flower buds (capers), often used as a seasoning, and the fruit (caper berry), both of which are usually consumed pickled. Other species of Capparis are also picked along with C. spinosa for their buds or fruits. Other parts of Capparis plants are used in the manufacture of medicines and cosmetics.

Capparis spinosa is present in almost all the circum-Mediterranean countries, and is included in the floristic composition of most of them, but whether it is indigenous to this region is uncertain. Although the flora of the Mediterranean region has considerable endemism, the caper bush could have originated in the tropics or in the dry areas of Western or Central Asia, and later been naturalized to the Mediterranean basin. Capers can today be found growing wild all over Mediterranean, and are frequently cultivated (e.g., in France, Spain, Italy and Algeria; furthermore, Iran, Cyprus and Greece produce significant amounts).

Caper and its relatives in several European tongues can be traced back to Classical Latin capparis “caper”. Latin capparis, in turn, was borrowed from Greek kapparis (êÜððáñéò), whose origin (as that of the plant) is unknown but probably West or Central Asia. Another theory links kapparis to the name of the island Cyprus (Kypros, Êýðñïò), where capers grow abun­dantly.

The caper bush (Capparis spinosa) has been introduced as a specialized culture in some European countries in the last four decades. The economic importance of the caper plant led to a significant increase in both the area under cultivation and production levels during the late 1980s. The main production areas are in harsh environments found in Morocco, the southeastern Iberian peninsula, Turkey, and the Italian islands of Pantelleria and Salina. This species has developed special mechanisms to survive in the Mediterranean conditions, and introduction in semiarid lands may help to prevent the disruption of the equilibrium of those fragile ecosystems.

Dry heat and intense sunlight make the preferred environment for caper plants. Plants are productive in zones having 350 mm annual precipitation (falling mostly in winter and spring months) and easily survive summertime temperatures higher than 40° C (105° F). However, caper is a cold tender plant and has a temperature hardiness range similar to the olive tree (-8° C, 18° F.)

Where native, plants grow spontaneously in cracks and crevices of rocks and stone walls. Plants grow well in nutrient poor sharply-drained gravelly soils. Mature plants develop large extensive root systems that penetrate deeply into the earth. Capers are salt-tolerant and flourish along shores within sea-spray zones.

Caper plants are small shrubs, and may reach about one meter upright. However, uncultivated caper plants are more often seen hanging, draped and sprawling as they scramble over soil and rocks. The caper's vegetative canopy covers soil surfaces which helps to conserve soil water reserves. Leaf stipules may be formed into spines. Flowers are born on first-year branches. 

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.

The beauty of caper flowers is as fragile and short-lived as that of poppy flowers, which are proverbial for their quick wilting: The delicate, cream–white petals and lively purple staminal persist only a few hours. Moreover, the flowers are rarely seen in caper gardens as the caper bud must be harvested before it opens. Never­theless, the flowers of wild caper bushes are a common sight in all countries surrounding the Medi­terranean Sea, extending even to the Sahara in North Africa and the dry regions of Central Asia, where the plant is thought to have originated. 

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

Capers have a sharp piquant flavor and add pungency, a peculiar aroma and saltiness to comestibles such as pasta sauces, pizza, fish, meats and salads. The flavor of caper may be described as being similar to that of mustard and black pepper. In fact, the caper strong flavor comes from mustard oil.

Buds, to be harvested in the morning time immediately before flowering. The buds, when ready to pick, are a dark olive green and about the size of a fresh kernel of corn. They are picked, then pickled in salt, or a salt and vinegar solution, and drained. They are never dried. Less often, capers are preserved by packing in coarse salt. These must be rinsed before usage. 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 Italian cuisine, especially in Sicilian and southern Italian cooking. They are commonly used in salads, pasta salads, pizzas, meat dishes and pasta sauces. Examples of uses in Italian cuisine are chicken piccata and spaghetti alla puttanesca. Capers are also known for being one of the ingredients of tartar sauce. 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. If the caper bud is not picked, it flowers and produces a fruit called a caper berry. The fruit can be pickled and then served as a Greek mezze. Caper leaves, which are hard to find outside of Greece, are used particularly in salads and fish dishes. They are pickled or boiled and preserved in jars with brine -- like caper buds. Dried caper leaves are also used as a substitute for rennet in the manufacturing of high-quality cheese.

Caper root bark and leaves may have some anticarcinogenic activity. In fact, the hydrolysis products of indol-3-ylmethyl glucosinolates have anticarcinogenic effects. Although the consumption of capers is low in comparison with the intake of other major dietary sources of glucosinolates (white cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower) it may contribute to the daily dose of natural anticarcinogens that reduces cancer risk. Glucosinolates are also known to possess goitrogenic (anti-thyroid) activity. Also, rutin and quercetin may contribute to cancer prevention. Selenium, present in capers at high concentrations in comparison with other vegetable products, has also been associated with the prevention of some forms of cancer.

Capers are said to reduce flatulence and to be anti-rheumatic in effect. In ayurvedeic medicine capers (Capers=Himsra) are recorded as hepatic stimulants and protectors, improving liver function. Capers have reported uses for arteriosclerosis, as diuretics, kidney disinfectants, vermifuges and tonics. Infusions and decoctions from caper root bark have been traditionally used for dropsy, anemia, arthritis and gout. Capers contain considerable amounts of the anti-oxidant bioflavinoid rutin. Caper extracts and pulps have been used in cosmetics, but there has been reported contact dermatitis and sensitivity from their use.

In Greek popular medicine, a herbal tea made of caper root and young shoots is considered 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.

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 flower buds 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.


Source:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caper
http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Capp_spi.html

http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/cropfactsheets/caper.html

 

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Champak - Magnolia champaca
Hooker’s lips - Psychotria elata
Suicide Tree - Cerbera odollam
Konjac - Amorphophallus konjac
Madagascar ocotillo - Alluaudia procera
Water Banana - Typhonodorum lindleyanum
Salak - Salacca zalacca
Natal Plum - Carissa macrocarpa
Ashanti blood - Mussaenda erythrophylla
Duranta - Duranta erecta
Maqui - Aristotelia chilensis
Manuka - New Zealand Tea Tree - Leptospermum scoparium
Suriname cherry - Eugenia uniflora
Australian Finger Lime - Citrus australasica
Sacred Flower of the Incas - Cantua buxifolia
Job's tears - Coix Lacryma-jobi
Velvet Bean - Mucuna pruriens
Java Apple - Syzygium samarangense
Screwpine - Pandanus utilis
Marimo - Aegagropila linnaei
Achocha/Caigua - Inca cucumber - Cyclanthera pedata
Rubber Tree - Hevea brasiliensis
Sugar cane - Saccharum officinarum
Sacha inchi - Plukenetia volubilis
Coffea - Coffee Tree - Coffea arabica
Liquorice - Licorice - Glycyrrhiza glabra
Mullein -Verbascum thapsus
Iceplant - Mesembryanthemum crystallinum
Chayote - Sechium edule
Roselle - Hibiscus sabdariffa
Black Goji - Lycium ruthenicum Murray
Rose Cactus - Pereskia grandifolia
Durian - Durio zibethinus
Jackfruit tree - Artocarpus heterophyllus
Cassabanana - Sicana odorifera
Chilean myrtle - Arrayan - Luma apiculata
Kurrajong - Brachychiton populneus
Rice-paper Plant -Tetrapanax papyrifer
Shell Ginger - Alpinia zerumbet
Harlequin Glorybower - Clerodendrum trichotomum
Coco de Mer - Lodoicea maldivica
Silver Tree - Leucadendron argenteum
Buffaloberry - Shepherdia argentea
Himalayan Honeysuckle - Leycesteria formosa
Raisin Tree - Hovenia dulcis
Borojo - Alibertia patinoi - Borojoa patinoi
Butterfly Pea - Clitoria ternatea
Honey Flower - Melianthus major
Ombu - Phytolacca dioica
Lion's Ear - Wild Dagga - Leonotis leonurus
Moringa - Miracle Tree - Moringa oleifera
Sea Daffodil - Pancratium maritimum
Spear Lily - Gymea - Doryanthes
Camphor tree - Cinnamomum camphora
Waterwheel - Aldrovanda vesiculosa
Flowering rush - Butomus umbellatus
Four o'clock - Marvel of Peru - Mirabilis jalapa
Dead Man’s Fingers - Decaisnea
Bitter Melon - Momordica charantia
Shoapnuts Tree - Shoapberry - Sapindus
Acerola - Malpighia
Monkey Ladder - Sea Heart - Entada gigas
Cherimoya - Annona cherimola
Caper - Capparis spinosa
Lithops - Living Stones
Chaste Tree - Vitex agnus-castus
Chilean Lantern Tree - Crinodendron hookerianum
Parrot's Beak - Lotus berthelotii
Water Hyacinth - Eichhornia crassipes
Guaiac Tree - Guaiacum officinale - Lignum-vitae
Mickey Mouse bush - Ochna serrulata
Cow's Udder - Solanum mammosum
Miracle fruit - Synsepalum dulcificum
Akebia - Akebia quinata
Chilean Firebush - Embothrium coccineum
Caesalpinia - Caesalpinia pulcherrima
Welwitschia - Welwitschia mirabilis
Saguaro - Carnegiea gigantea
Schisandra - Schisandra chinensis
Monarda - Bee balm - Bergamot
Tamarind - Tamarindus indica
Neomarica - Walking Iris
Red hot poker - Kniphofia - Tritoma
Sikkim rhubarb - Rheum nobile
Reseda - Mignonette
Paulownia - Paulownia tomentosa
Belamcanda chinensis - Leopard lily
Blue Poppy - Meconopsis
Cannonball Tree - Couroupita guianensis
Tamarillo - Cyphomandra betacea
Goji - Wolfberry - Lycium barbarum
Vanilla - Vanilla Planifolia
Stevia - Stevia rebaudiana
Pachypodium
Physalis
Ceropegia
Sturt pea - Swainsona formosa
Clematis
Grevillea
Jade vine - Strongylodon macrobotrys
Sansevieria - Snake Plant
Trochetia
Yareta - Azorella compacta
African tulip tree - Spathodea campanulata
Angel's Trumpets - Brugmansia
Achiote - Annato - Bixa orellana
Sausage Tree - Kigelia pinnata
Castor Oil Plant - Ricinus communis
Firewheel Tree - Stenocarpus sinuatus
Bat Flower - Tacca
Snake gourd - Trichosanthes cucumerina
Sedum
Hydnora - Hydnora africana
Pickerel Weed - Pontederia
Argan - Argania spinosa
Astilbe - False Goats Beard
Feijoa - Pineapple Guava - Acca sellowiana
Aquilegia - Columbine
Cassiope
Sweet Box - Sarcococca
Christmas Cactus - Schlumbergera
Foxtail Lily - Eremurus
Rue - Ruta graveolens
Pittosporum
Ylang-Ylang - Cananga odorata
Rose of Jericho - Anastatica hierochuntica
Gunnera
Waterlily - Nymphaea
Calico Flower - Aristolochia
Daylily - Hemerocallis
Contorted hazel - Corylus avellana Contorta
Torch Ginger - Etlingera elatior
Mistletoe - Viscum album
Devil´s claw - Harpagophytum procumbens
Teasel - Dipsacus
Pampas grass - Gynerium argenteum - Cortaderia Selloanna
Purple coneflower - Echinacea purpurea
Coral Tree - Erythrina crista-galli
Portulaca
Lobelia
Field Poppy - Papaver Rhoeas
Narcissus - Daffodil
Mimosa pudica - Sensitive Plant
Boxwood - Buxus sempervirens
Firethorn - Pyracantha
Star of Bethlehem - Ornithogalum
Cosmos
Muscari - Grape Hyacinth
Papyrus - Cyperus papyrus
Zinnia
Honeysuckle - Lonicera
Passiflora - Passion Flower
Calendula - Marigold
Lupine - Lupinus
Canna - Indian Shot
Witch Hazel - Hamamelis
Oak - Quercus
Brunsvigia - Candelabra Flower
Tree peony - Paeonia suffruticosa
Olive - Olea europaea
Cornflower - Centaurea cyanus
Desert rose - Adenium obesum
Oleander - Nerium Oleander
Abutilon
Sweet Pea - Lathyrus odoratus
Chaenomeles - Flowering Quince
Forsythia
Amaryllis - Hippeastrum
Butchers broom - Ruscus aculeatus
Bay Laurel - Laurus nobilis
Gloriosa
Bamboo
Gladiolus
Artichoke - Cynara scolymus
Clivia - Clivia Miniata
Dipladenia - Dipladenia sanderii
Date palm - Phoenix dactylifera
Peach - Prunus persica
Almond - Prunus amygdalus
Willow - Salix
Pomegranate - Punica granatum
Protea cynaroides
Colchicum autumnale
Bird of Paradise - Strelitzia reginae
Cardon - Pachycereus pringlei
Wolffia arrhiza
Puya raimondii
Fuchsia
Asphodelus - Asphodel
Primula - Primerose
Dicentra spectabilis - Bleeding Heart
Edelweiss - Leontopodium alpinum
Helleborus Niger - Christmas Rose
Zantedeschia - Calla Lily
Fritillaria imperialis - Crown imperial
Aster
Heliconia
Common Sunflower - Helianthus annuus
Bee Orchid - Orphys apifera
Convalaria majalis - Lily of the Valley - Muguet
Syringa Vurgaris - Lilac
Viola
Impantiens
Snowdrop - Galanthus
Poinsettia - Euphorbia pulcherrima
Dionaea muscipula
Banksia
Sea anemone
Amorrhophallus titanum
Rafflesia arnoldi

 

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