Anatolian Capers (Capparis Spinosa)50 Fresh SeedsCapparis spinosa, the caper bush, 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, and later been naturalized to the Mediterranean basin.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 in order to survive in the Mediterranean conditions, and introduction in semiarid lands may help to prevent the disruption of the equilibrium of those fragile ecosystems.C. 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.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 caper bush requires a semiarid climate. Mean annual temperatures in areas under cultivation are over 14 °C and rainfall varies from 200 mm/year in Spain to 460 in Pantelleria and 680 in Salina. In Pantelleria, it rains only 35 mm from May through August, and 84 mm in Salina. A rainy spring and a hot dry summer are considered advantageous. This drought-tolerant perennial plant has favourable influence on the environment and it is utilized for landscaping and reducing erosion along highways, steep rocky slopes, sand dunes or fragile semiarid ecosystems.A harvest duration of at least 3 months is necessary for profitability. Intense daylight and a long growing period are necessary to secure high yields. The caper bush can withstand temperatures over 40 °C in summer but it is sensitive to frost during its vegetative period. The potential exposure of caper hydraulic architecture to cavitations has recently been proposed as an explanation for its susceptibility to freezing conditions. On the other side, caper bush is able to survive low temperatures in the form of stump, as it happens in the foothills of the Alps. Caper plants are found even 3,500 m above sea-level in Ladakh though they are usually grown at lower altitudes. Some Italian and Argentine plantings can withstand strong winds without problems, due to caper bush decumbent architecture and the coriaceous consistency of the leaves in some populations.The caper bush is a rupicolous species. It is widespread on rocky areas and is grown on different soil associations, including alfisols, regosols and lithosols. In different Himalayan locations, C. spinosa tolerates both silty clay and sandy, rocky or gravelly surface soils, with less than 1% organic matter. It grows on bare rocks, crevices, cracks and sand dunes in Pakistan, in dry calcareous escarpments of the Adriatic region, in dry coastal ecosystems of Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, in transitional zones between the littoral salt marsh and the coastal deserts of the Asian Red Sea coast, in the rocky arid bottoms of the Jordan valley, in calcareous sandstone cliffs at Ramat Aviv, Israel, and in central west and northwest coastal dunes of Australia. It grows spontaneously in wall joints of antique Roman fortresses, on the Wailing Wall, and on the ramparts of the castle of Santa Bárbara (Alicante, Spain). Moreover, this bush happens to grow in the foothills of the southern Alps (Verona, Italy) and is a common species on city walls in Tuscany (Italy) and on bastions of Mdina and Valletta (Malta). Clinging caper plants are dominant on the medieval limestone-made ramparts of Alcudia and the bastions of Palma (Majorca, Spain). This aggressive pioneering has brought about serious problems for the protection of monuments.The caper bush has developed a series of mechanisms that reduce the impact of high radiation levels, high daily temperature and insufficient soil water during its growing period.Caper bush has a curious reaction to sudden increases in humidity: it forms wart-like pock marks across the leaf surface. This is apparently harmless, as the plant quickly adjusts to the new conditions and produces unaffected leaves.It also shows characteristics of a plant adapted to poor soils. This shrub has a high root/shoot ratio and the presence of mycorrhizae serves to maximize the uptake of minerals in poor soils. Different nitrogen-fixing bacterial strains have been isolated from the caper bush rhizosphere playing a role in maintaining high reserves of that growth-limiting element.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.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, or drained. 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.Capers are categorized and sold by their size, defined as follows, with the smallest sizes being the most desirable: Non-pareil (up to 7 mm), surfines (7–8 mm), capucines (8–9 mm), capotes (9–11 mm), fines (11–13 mm), and grusas (14+ mm). If the caper bud is not picked, it flowers and produces a fruit called a caperberry. The fruit can be pickled and then served as a Greek mezze.Unripe nasturtium seeds can be substituted for capers; they have a very similar texture and flavour when pickled. Pickled caperberries are also very popular as a snack in Menorca.In addition, the Greeks make good use of the caper's leaves, which are especially desirable and hard to find outside of Greece. They are pickled or boiled and preserved in jars with brine-like caper buds. Caper leaves are excellent in salads and fish dishes. Dried caper leaves are also used as a substitute for rennet in the manufacturing of high quality cheese.