capers

Caper

Scientific classification
Kingdom:Plantae
Division:Magnoliophyta
Class:Magnoliopsida
Order:Brassicales
Family:Capparaceae
Genus:Capparis
Species:C. spinosa
Binomial name
Capparis spinosa
Linnaeus, 1753


The caper (Capparis spinosa L.) is a perennial spiny shrub that bears rounded, fleshy leaves and big white to pinkish-white flowers. A caper is also the pickled bud of this plant. The bush is native to the Mediterranean region, growing wild on walls or in rocky coastal areas throughout. The plant is best known for the edible bud and fruit (caper berry) which are usually consumed pickled. Other species of Capparis are also picked along with C. spinosa for their buds or fruits.

The plant

Capparis spinosa is highly variable in nature in its native habitats and is found growing near the closely related species C. sicula, C. orientalis, and C. aegyptia. Scientists can use the known distributions of each species to identify the origin of commercially prepared capers.[1][2]

The shrubby plant is many-branched, with alternate leaves, thick and shiny, round to ovate in shape. The flowers are complete, 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.[3]

Culinary Uses

Enlarge picture
Salted capers.
Capers, prepared
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 0 kcal   0 kJ
Carbohydrates     5 g
- Sugars  0.4 g
- Dietary fibre  3 g  
Fat0.9 g
Protein 2 g
Vitamin C  4 mg0%
Iron  1.7 mg0%
Sodium  2960 mg0%
Percentages are relative to US
recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient database


The salted and pickled caper bud (also called caper) is often used as a seasoning or garnish. Capers are a common ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine. The grown fruit of the caper shrub is also used, and prepared similarly to the buds to be used as caper berries.

The buds, when ready to pick, are a dark olive green and about the size of a kernel of corn. They are picked, then pickled in salt, or a salt and vinegar solution.

Capers are a distinctive ingredient in Sicilian and Southern Italian cooking, used in salads, pizzas, meat dishes and pasta sauces. Examples of uses in Italian cuisine are Chicken piccata and Salsa puttanesca. 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.

Capers are categorized and sold by their size, defined as follows, with the smallest sizes being the most desirable: Non-pareil (0-7 mm), surfines (7-8 mm), capucines (8-9 mm), capotes (9-11 mm), fines (11-13 mm), and grusas (14+ mm).

Unripe nasturtium seeds can be substituted for capers; they have a very similar texture and flavour when pickled.

Medicinal Uses

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

History

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 flowerbuds 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.[4]
Enlarge picture
Capparis spinosa L.
by Otto Wilhelm Thomé


The caper-berry is mentioned in the Bible in the book of Ecclesiastes as "avionah" according to modern interpretation of the word.


References

1. ^ Fici, S (October, 2001). "Intraspecific variation and evolutionary trends in Capparis spinosa L. (Capparaceae)". Plant Systematics and Evolution 228 (3-4): 123-141. DOI:10.1007/s006060170024. Retrieved on 21 November 2006. 
2. ^ Inocencio, C; F Alcaraz, F Calderón, C Obón, D Rivera (April, 2002). "The use of floral characters in Capparis sect. Capparis' to determine the botanical and geographical origin of capers". European Food Research and Technology'' 214 (4): 335-339. DOI:10.1007/200217-001-1465-7. Retrieved on 21 November 2006. 
3. ^ Watson, L.; MJ Dallwitz (1992 onwards). The Families of Flowering Plants. Retrieved on 21 November 2006.
4. ^ Fragiska, M. (2005). Wild and Cultivated Vegetables, Herbs and Spices in Greek Antiquity. Environmental Archaeology 10 (1): 73-82

External links

Scientific classification or biological classification is a method by which biologists group and categorize species of organisms. Scientific classification also can be called scientific taxonomy, but should be distinguished from folk taxonomy, which lacks scientific basis.
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Plantae
Haeckel, 1866[1]

Divisions

Green algae
  • Chlorophyta
  • Charophyta
Land plants (embryophytes)
  • Non-vascular land plants (bryophytes)

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Magnoliophyta

Classes

Magnoliopsida - Dicots
Liliopsida - Monocots

The flowering plants or angiosperms are the most widespread group of land plants. The flowering plants and the gymnosperms comprise the two extant groups of seed plants.
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Magnoliopsida

Magnoliopsida is the botanical name for a class of flowering plants. By definition the class will include the family Magnoliaceae, but its can otherwise vary, being more inclusive or less inclusive depending upon the classification system being
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Brassicales
Bromhead

Families

See text.

The Brassicales are an order of flowering plants, belonging to the eurosids II group of dicotyledons under the APG II system.
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Capparaceae
Juss.

Genera
See text.

Capparaceae, or the Caper Family, as traditionally circumscribed is a family of flowering plants containing 28 genera and about 700 species of annual or perennial herbs, subshrubs, shrubs or trees, sometimes
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Capparis

Capparis is a genus of plant in family Capparaceae. It contains the following species (but this list may be incomplete):
  • Capparis crotonantha, Standl.
  • Capparis decidua, (Forssk.) Edgew.

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binomial nomenclature is the formal system of naming species. The system is also called binominal nomenclature (particularly in zoological circles), binary nomenclature (particularly in botanical circles), or the binomial classification system.
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Carolus Linnaeus (Carl von Linné)

Carl von Linné, Alexander Roslin, 1775. Currently owned by and hanging at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
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Salting is the preservation of food with salt. It is related to pickling (preparing food with brine, rather than dry salt). It is one of many methods of preserving food.
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Pickling, also known as brining or corning, is the process of preserving food by anaerobic fermentation in brine (a solution of salt in water), to produce lactic acid, or marinating and storing it in an acid solution, usually vinegar (acetic acid).
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Garnish is a substance used primarily as an embellishment or decoration to a prepared food or drink item.
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