Family: Capparidaceae, Capparis spinosa L.

Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984. Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.

Caper, Capparis spinosa L., a shrub native to the Mediterranean region, is a tender perennial plant with deep roots and a long stem that reaches a height of 1.5 meters. Two forms of caper exist, a spiny and a nonspiny (var. inermis). The reported life zone of capers is 13 to 27 degrees centigrade with 0.3 to 2.6 meters annual precipitation and a soil pH of 6.3 to 8.3 (4.1-31, 14.1-4). Capers thrive best in dry soil with plenty of drainage. Detailed studies on horticultural and chemical aspects of capers have not been completed.

In commercial operations, unopened flower buds are generally collected by hand from wild plants and pickled to produce a pungent taste and smell before being used in salads and in tartar and other sauces. Recent research has indicated that extracts of capers are an effective treatment for enlarged capillaries and for improving dry skin (7.5-66). Leaves of the related species Capparis horrida are used as rubefacients. Capparis flexuosa is reported to be useful in treating general skin diseases (11.1-96). Capparis fascicularis and Capparis tumentosa are poisonous (11.1-96).

Capers are generally recognized as safe when used as spices or natural seasonings/flavorings (21 CFR section 182.10 [1982]).

[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in full in the original reference].

Aromatic and Medicinal Plants Index

Last modified 6-Dec-1997