Gardening

How to plant caper

Capparis spinosa

The caper or caper is a woody shrub that can reach up to one meter in height, and that is native to the Mediterranean region, the middle east and north of the west coast of Africa. Capers are also the name given to their immature flower buds, which are preserved in brine or in a solution of vinegar and salt, being used as a condiment in sauces, other preserves and various types of culinary dishes. Semi-mature fruits and younger leaves can also be eaten and are prepared and used in a similar way to flower buds. The leaves can be cooked before being prepared. The caper is also used for medicinal purposes.

Other species in the genus Capparis and hybrids between these species are also cultivated and used as capers.

Climate

The caper prefers a hot, dry climate, tolerating very high temperatures (even temperatures around 40 ° C), although it can also sometimes withstand low temperatures in winter (up to approximately -8 ° C). Excess moisture can harm this plant.

Brightness

Requires direct sunlight.

Ground

It can be grown in any type of soil, as long as it is well drained, but the ideal is a calcareous soil. It grows well even in stony soils, and can be found growing naturally in cracks and fissures of old stone walls in the regions where it is native. The pH of the soil can be in the range of 6 to 8.5, but the ideal is a slightly alkaline pH in the range of 7.5 to 8.

Irrigation

The best thing is that there is no lack of water, but the soil must have excellent drainage and should not remain moist for a long time. When well developed it does not require much water and withstands periods of drought. Excess water can favor the onset of disease.

Planting

Planting can be done by seeds or cuttings. The seeds are small and can take months to germinate. Freshly harvested seeds can germinate in a few weeks, but the rate of seeds that germinate fast is usually low. The dried seeds normally become dormant, and it may be necessary to leave them immersed in water for a day, keep them for two or three months in a tissue moistened in the refrigerator and then again leave them immersed in warm water for a day, before sowing them. Sow seeds, seedlings or pots, transplanting the seedlings to the final location when they are one year old. Seedlings grow slowly in the first months.

Planting by cuttings has the advantage of producing seedlings with a more uniform appearance, but the rooting rate of the branches is relatively low. Use pieces of branches about 20 cm long, preferably taken from the base or middle of a healthy one-year-old branch. Remove the leaves and plant the pieces of branches in pots.

The recommended spacing varies depending on the cultivar and the cultivation conditions, and can range from 2.5 m to 5 m between plants. Capers can also be grown in pots.

Cultivation

Remove invasive plants that are competing for resources and nutrients.

When the plant is dormant, it can prune the branches, eliminating dead, weak or diseased branches. When the plant is in full production, cut off the unproductive branches.

Harvest

The flower buds are harvested when they are still completely closed. Therefore, the picking of the buds should be repeated every three or four days during the months in which flowering occurs. Flowers that start to open should not be picked. These can produce fruits, which can be harvested and prepared when they are already well developed, almost ripe. The collection of flower buds should preferably be done on dry days.

Fresh buds have a very bitter taste and must undergo a fermentation process before consumption. For this, the buds can be arranged in layers filled with salt, or they can be left in brine or in a solution of vinegar and salt, for at least 20 to 30 days, to acquire their characteristic flavor.

It is possible to harvest some buds in the second year of cultivation, but production really starts in the third and fourth year. The caper is a perennial plant and can produce well for decades.

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