Thank you for purchasing caper plants from Morningsun Herb Farm. Our nursery stock is produced from seed collected from stock plants grown at our nursery. The capers are between 6 months and one year old, with young but well developed roots. We find that plants at this age transplant well with little shock.
We grow two varieties of capers, Capparis spinosa var inermis, or the spineless caper, and Capparis spinosa, the standard caper with spines. The spineless variety has larger round, dark green leaves and is an excellent choice for a container, while the species is preferred for areas with browsing animals.
Capparis spinosa is native to the Mediterranean Basin, from the Canary Islands and North Africa to the southern Mediterranean and the Mid East. This plant has a 5000 year history of medicinal and culinary use. It will survive temperatures down to 18 degrees F and thrives in temperatures exceeding 105 degrees F. Below 40 degrees F capers typically will be deciduous, losing all of its leaves, but will leaf out in the spring. Capers prefers full sun, excellent drainage, lean soils, and little water. In its native habitat, capers grow out of rock walls and rocky outcroppings, often near the ocean. At maturity, capers grow to 3 feet tall and wide shrub, and can have the appearance of a bramble, such as a small blackberry. Small flower buds, which are the primary portion of the plant for culinary use, will produce a beautiful white bloom blushed with pink, with lavender stamens and a delicate fragrance. Flowers are produced over a long season, from May through September. A small berry is then produced which can also be pickled and eaten.
Capers are somewhat difficult to establish, needing excellent drainage to keep the root systems dry. Growing the plants in a rocky soil, on a berm or a mound, will help establish the root system. Once the plants are established, they are long lived perennials that can withstand extreme temperatures and drought. At the nursery we built a rock garden with field stone, filling the crevices with cactus mix or soil amended with small rocks and sharp sand. If growing on a berm or a mound be sure the soil is well drained (not a heavy clay) When first planted, plants need to be watered every 3 or 4 days, but once established capers will live with no summer water. Some supplemental summer water, every 14 to 21 days, can give more flowers and growth. Fertilizing with fish emulsion in the spring is usually sufficient for the entire year. If you are growing capers in containers the soil should be very well drained, with no saucer under the container, allowing the container to dry out between watering. Fertilize with fish emulsion every 8 to 12 weeks. If you are growing capers in cold climates that require moving the plants indoors in the winter, be sure to place the plants in an area with lots of sunlight, away from very cold windows, and keep the pots dry.
Plants will produce sporadic flowers the first year, but once established can produce as much as 2 lbs of flower buds per year. Buds can be picked daily, washed in salt water and pickled in vinegar or brined in salt. Generally, the smaller the bud, the more high quality. Capers have a piquant spicy flavor, a combination of mustard and pepper, and are excellent for use in sauces, fish, meats and pasta.