Tuesday, 23 August 2016 18:56

Magic along those dusty roads

Caper flowers - they live one day only Caper flowers - they live one day only

I have written about the cicada – the insect whose very audible presence we get to enjoy (or endure) every summer. It turned out many did not know much about the quite magical creature – such as that males actually make the sound by vibrating membranes on their abdomens and that most species have multi-year life cycles; some hatch only every 17 years and live above ground for only four weeks!

There seems to be another summer phenomenon that many of us know little about which is also quite impressive. The magical caper flower. It has an even shorter life span – a day to be exact.

“Capers? They taste like gravel,” I used to say. Now that I know the dry and dusty terrain they usually grow on, it seems to make sense – except that I love them now. And I especially love their delicate flowers – orchids really. They make my photographer’s heart beat faster every time I see one. It seems this year they are sticking around even longer than usual, as I still spot them regularly.

I did some research and found out that capers grow abundantly around Cyprus, Italy, Greece, North Africa and Asia Minor and have been around since ancient times. They are mentioned in the Bible and in Greek and Latin classical literature where uses in medicine and cosmetics are also stated.

Capers are actually the plant’s flower buds, if not picked in the early morning hours they’ll open into one of those delicate white and purple flowers. The berries are the fruits which follow the flowers and are picked later and packed with the stems intact. There are more than 150 species of the caper plant with only a few of them being used in various cuisines.

Those of us from cooler countries are used to buying them in those tiny, slim 50-gram glass jars on specialty store shelves. Here in Cyprus they grow wild and are harvested by the tonme – during a phone call to Morphakis, one of the island’s main caper preservers, I found out that they harvest around 20-30 tonnes of capers and 15-20 tonnes of leaves per year.

The main caper region is the mountainous area in Paphos, but some areas are also located in the Limassol region of the Troodos Mountains. Leaves are actually harvested before the capers which are mostly picked from April to June. They grow best after abundant rains in spring which makes this year not a particularly abundant caper year.

I am happy to report that capers are even good for you! Obviously they are high in sodium because of the brine, but they are low in calories, contain healthy levels of vitamin A, vitamin k, niacin and riboflavin and minerals like calcium, iron and copper, and quercetin which acts as an anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-inflammatory agent.

I will, however, continue feasting my eyes on the lovely flowers which have escaped their fate of being picked to be eaten and got a chance to unfold their beauty.

Article as published in The Cyprus Weekly of August 19th 2016 

Mary Anglberger

I’ve been travelling the world for over 20 years teaching English and am now taking time to follow my passion for photography and writing. I want to share all the things, events and people that have inspired and inspire me and spread those positive vibes all around.

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