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Capparis spinosa.jpg
Plant Info
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Kingdom: Plantae
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Division: Magnoliophyta
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Class: Magnoliopsida
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Order: Brassicales
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Superfamily: {{{superfamilia}}}
Family: Capparaceae
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Genus: Capparis
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Species: C. spinosa
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Binomial name
Capparis spinosa
Linnaeus, 1753
Trinomial name
Type Species

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The caper (Capparis spinosa L.) is a biennial 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

Salted capers.
Pickled Capers in a jar


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 maize. 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. 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.


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]

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


  1. Fici, S (October, 2001). "Intraspecific variation and evolutionary trends in Capparis spinosa L. (Capparaceae)". Plant Systematics and Evolution (Springer Wien) 228 (3-4): 123-141. doi:10.1007/s006060170024. 
  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 (Springer) 214 (4): 335-339. doi:10.1007/200217-001-1465-7. 
  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


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