Few products are so characteristic of the Mediterranean area than capers. We are used to eating them as pickles, in salads, on pizzas, etc. What if we grow them in our garden? We assure you that it is easy and adapts to all kinds of conditions. Today in Gardenprue, I teach c ultivar the caper .
The caper ( Capparis spinosa) is a shrub from the Mediterranean region belonging to the Capparaceae family (with about 420 species). It usually reaches 30-40 cm in height and is very resistant to drought, since it is specialized in growing in desert or semi-desert areas (xerophytic plant).
Although we say that the caper is from the Mediterranean area, its origins are very different, since the first descriptions of this plant were made in Asia , but it was the Greeks who introduced it to a totally suitable climate for the development of the caper, the area Mediterranean.
Two products are used from the caper. One would be the capers or tabaly , which are the most used and consumed, and another would be the caparrones . It is the result of not collecting the flower bud (the tapena) and allowing the fruit to develop.
As we have mentioned before, being a xerophilous plant, it is used to very hot environments with great luminosity. A range of temperatures of the caper tree would be between -8ºC and 40ºC.
Due to its creeping growth, the cultivation of capers is perfectly indicated for those places where the wind blows very hard.
In the cultivation of capers, the soil does not pose any problem, since it adapts to a great diversity of soils. If we had to choose a type we would say that limestone and clay soils are the best for capers.
In some readings it is said that it is not necessary to pay the caper, and in reality it is true. You only have to see some areas where they grow, completely wild and only receiving rainwater, which in summer in the Mediterranean area is almost nil. On the other hand, they are underdeveloped plants, they grow slowly and with problems. If we grow capers in our garden, we want them to grow healthy and without deficiencies throughout their development. Use a little compost , especially in its growth to the adult plant and before flowering and fruiting.
THE WATER NEEDS IN THE CULTIVATION OF CAPERS
Not another thing, but resistance to water stress , the caper is a specialist. It supports long periods of drought and low humidity, since it has a very powerful root system and easy roots. On the other hand, you have to take care of the amount with which you water, since it is sensitive to excess humidity (normal soil humidity does not harm it, yes). For example, when the caper is grown to obtain maximum production, that is, a commercial exploitation, in the southern areas of Spain it is usually watered between 40 and 50 liters per week and adult plant , in drip irrigation.
HOW TO PRUNE
How pruning is usually divided, there is green and annual pruning . In this case, in the green one we will eliminate the thin stems and leave the ones that are better oriented. If we need the caper to branch, we must make it stand out.
When the end of autumn arrives and winter already appears, with the convenient seasonal stop of most of the plants, all the branches are eliminated, cutting a few centimeters from the vine and removing those that are too thin from the vine.
PESTS AND DISEASES IN CAPERS
In general, problems of this type do not usually occur but sometimes you can receive a visit from lepidoptera , such as the cabbage caterpillar and the cruciferous bug ( Eurydema ventralis ). You can also suffer the appearance of some fungi such as Fusarium, Verticillium or Phytium.
Beware of snails and slugs that we can sometimes find feeding on the soft parts of the caper.
THE HARD HARVEST IN THE CAPER TREE
One of the main problems of the caper tree and that has meant that it is not considered as a crop of interest is the difficulty of its collection . The plant takes about 4 years to enter production. That is the problem, the frequency of harvesting. That is to say, when a horticultural is collected, it is normally harvested in one or two passes, but in this case, there are many months of manual harvesting, which sometimes is not of interest for purely economic aspects, since a worker can collect around 1 kg of tapena in 1 hour. AND
he caper tree blooms from the month of May and does so for several months.