So let’s talk about the caper: a shrubby plant that grows throughout the Mediterranean basin. It grows on calcareous cliffs, on old walls, often forming tufts with hanging branches, even several meters long.In Tuscany you can see hanging on ancient towns’ or castles’walls.
The flowers bloom from May to October, while the part that is eaten is made up of flower buds still closed/capers, collected in spring, and by small fruits, elongated and fusiform, called cucunci, detached from the plant in summer.
Capers are perfect for seasoning even simple pasta, suitable to accompany fish, the particularly well known are the Pantelleria capers (I.G.P. brand) and that of Salina. Capers have very interesting properties for the body:
protection of joints, regulation of cholesterol levels, of circulation problems, hyperglycemia or diabetes.
Best eaten raw, adding them to the last minute preparations, both whole and chopped, because with cooking they lose aroma and sweetness and acquire a bitter aftertaste.
Cucunci are normally offered as an aperitif.
The capers and cucunci in brine and vinegar should be rinsed before use, while those in salt should be kept in water for about 20 minutes, changing the water a couple of times, then drained and squeezed.
Little by little we are learning to use the seeds inside the cucunci and the leaves of the plant, which are new ideas in Italian cooking.
Don’t forget the Italian expression“Oh capperi!” ,which means ”Oh wow!”.