- Food and Cooking
The caper is prickly shrub, usually known as the caper bush, native to the warm, arid and semiarid areas of the Mediterranean regions of North Africa and southern Europe. The plant's pickled flower buds, called capers, are used for garnishing or seasoning food. The caper (Cap-paris spinosa), a member of the caper family (Capparidaceae), grows to 4 feet (120 cm) tall and produces quickly fading, 4-petaled, white flowers. The flowers, which bear masses of showy stamens that extend well beyond the petals, mature into berries with numerous seeds. Caper is found on rocky soil and is common on old walls and ruins. It often grows in a creeping, or trailing, manner, similar to blackberries and other common brambles.
Caper is cultivated extensively in France, Sicily, and other parts of southern Europe for its flower buds, which are picked before opening and preserved in vinegar. The quality of capers depends upon the stage of development at the time of picking. Young, tender buds are preferred to those that are nearer the opening stage. The caper is grown to some extent in Florida and California.
There are about 150 species in the genus, some of which occasionally are used as a source of capers.