Of Capers, Caper-Berries and the Salty Sea
Capers. The delightfully salty little cousins of the olive, at least I've always thought of them that way. I'd heard they were unopened flower buds, but what about the caper-berry, darling of the martini craze from a few years back? The caper and the caper-berry are not the same thing but they come from the same plant. When I came to Greece for the first time I found out the real deal:
Here is the caper plant, itself, a rugged coastal Mediterranean plant, it seems to thrive on sea air alone, growing through cracks in rocky cliffs along the shore. The disk-shaped leaves are succulent, juicy and are still used in cooking by the very few older folks who still remember how to cook "horta", the wild-growing greens of Greece. I'll try out a recipe in my Greek cookbook as soon as I translate the thing, gimme a week or two.
The buds start coming up in early summer and flower throughout the month of July (at least here in Pelion, Greece). Here you see a branch with a tiny, non-pareil caper at the tip, a couple large ones further up and a rather spent flower. As I said before, the caper is the flower bud but the caper-berry is actually formed after the flower dies (see photo at top). It is the seed sack that,when saved from the martini glass, grows to the size of a small pear and bursts open to shower the rocks with seeds for next year's capers.