Cultivation and Health Benefits of Caper Plant (Capparis spinosa L.)
by Emirhan Turan, April 19, 2020
Capparis spinosa L. known as Caper plants are usually growing in dry stony areas in the Mediterranean area such as Turkey, Spain, Italy, Morocco etc.. You can find Caper plants wildly growing and hanging between walls and stones. They can grow up to 1 – 1.5 meters long, roots can be up to 10 meters long, and give white-pink flowers. Those incredible plants are being used for landscaping to reduce the erosion or cut down the fires from trees.
The capers are highly tolerant of dry and hot temperatures. They can grow within the range of 10 – 31 oC, however, the optimum growth temperature is between 14-27 oC. Caper has a wide pH range as well from 6 - 8.3, while the optimum range is between 6.5 and 7.5. The caper seeds (grey-brown) are not easily germinating and the rate of germination is generally low. To grow the caper from seeds you need to be patient as the seedlings are very slow-growing. Dried seeds are more difficult to germinate. Thus, to grow the caper the best would be to pick the seeds and sow them within 24 hours. If to find seeds are challenging for you and you bought the seeds from any market, nursery or garden center then the best would be to soak the seeds in water approximately for 1 day, wrap them in a paper tissue or thin towel and refrigerate them for around 2 to 3 months. Before sowing the seeds, re-soak them for 24 hours and sow them 0.5 – 1 cm deep in a pot.
Caper plants are very significant due to their nutritional value, the researches showed that capers have a high level of secondary metabolites such as phenolic compounds and flavonoids (dominantly Rutin and kaempferol-3-rutinoside). Capers are rich in glucosinolates even more than vegetables such as cabbage or broccoli. The high level of the glucosinolates can be only comparable with the Brussel sprouts.
As a medicine source capers are used to control diabetes, dermatitis in Asia and Africa. In traditional medicine, capers are being used as antiscorbutic, antispasmodic, diuretic, carminative. It has been found that capers have high antihepatotoxic, anti-inflammatory, antileishmanial properties.
Beyond pharmaceutical usage, capers are rich in calcium, sodium, magnesium, and potassium. Capers are also a good resource of unsaturated fatty acids such as oleic, linoleic and linolenic acid.
As those shrubs have high bioactive compounds that are beneficial for human health, they can be consumed as processed food in different forms.
Caper has a sharp taste and can be used mainly as vinegar or salt pickled and boiled vegetable.
If you ever visit mountain villages in Turkey, you can find the capers processed as jams as well. As roots, buds, and fruits of caper can be consumed, it can be considered as a bio-economical plant. References
Capparis spinosa L. in A Systematic Review: A Xerophilous Species of Multi Values and Promising Potentialities for Agrosystems under the Threat of Global Warming, Front. Plant Sci., 25 October 2017.
Phytonutrients in Food, From Traditional to Rational Usage, 2020, Pages 23-66.
Handbook of Herbs and Spices, Woodhead Publishing Series in Food Science, Technology and Nutrition 2006, Pages 230-256.
Phytochemical and Pharmacological Properties of Capparis spinosa as a Medicinal Plant, Nutrients. 2018 Feb; 10(2): 116.
Reference of featured image taken by Emirhan Turan
Reference of jam picture: http://xn--reeltarifi-p6a.blogspot.com/2016/06/kapari-receli-tarifi.html