Caper berries from Salina

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Sowing

The caper is a common plant in Sicily and is especially harvested on the Island of Salina, hence the name orchids from the Aeolian Islands.

The caper is a perennial shrub with several stalks, alternate leaves and very round oval, dark-green leaves. At times there are two thorns at the base of the leaf-stalks and its flowers are large and obvious. Four large white petals with purple shades form the corolla. The ovary, which is in the middle of the stamens, is upheld by a long gynophore, which then turns into the petiole of the fruit, a berry called cucuncio, which is increasingly becoming known and appreciated by gourmets all over the world.

Caper shrubs are trimmed at the beginning of the year in January and February: All the branches that bore fruit the previous year are removed and the best cuttings are used for reproduction. The land is hoed and fertilized in March with a balanced, organic-based fertilizer. The plant awakens in April and the buds open and give life to new fruit-bearing branches.

Harvesting

Bud picking begins at the end of May and continues through the end of August. Picking is carried out very early in the morning to prevent working in the summer heat, but also to preserve the aroma, which the heat could fade. The quality of the product depends on the picking frequency, which is generally carried out on a weekly basis. Each plant generates a seasonal average of 1.5 to 4 or 5 kg of capers.

Total production in Salina is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1,000 quintals, whereas over 4,500 quintals were harvested up until 1983.

Capers are placed in the shade for a day right after they are picked. They are salted with dry sea salt in the evening in the smallest vats, which are changed every day for 8-10 days to air out the product and prevent the combined action of the salt and heat from softening them. Finally, they are placed in containers that can hold 3-4 quintals, where they remain for about two months.


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