The caper plant
The caper plant (Capparis Spinosa) is a small perennial, deciduous shrub which is harvested during the summer months for its flower buds known as capers and its fruit known as the caperberry.
Capers are a traditional part of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine and are typically used as a condiment to flavour dishes. The caper plant has been growing in these hot dry climates for thousands of years and while it suits Australia’s climate it is a very new and emerging crop.
Long Lane Capers season commences at the beginning of December and continues until March each year.
Harvesting capers and caperberries
Our capers and caperberries are hand-picked in the cool of the morning and we pick from the same plant every 5-7 days giving us a continuous harvest over summer.
We harvest our caper leaves and stems early in the season to ensure they’re tender and by the end of November we commence picking the capers (the flower buds) which form each week on the tip of each of the plants stems.
By late January we stop picking all of the capers and allow some to flower and form the caperberry (the fruit). This continues through until March each season.
Processing and sorting
Each morning after picking we take the harvest to our on farm processing kitchen where we firstly grade the capers through our sorting rack into 3 sizes – small capers up to 7mm, medium capers 8-9 mm and large capers 10-14 mm in diameter. Caperberries and caper leaves are harvested in separate buckets so there is no sorting needed.
Preserving capers, caperberries and caper leaves
The produce is then washed and cleaned of debris. Capers are then preserved in Murray River Salt, caperberries and caper leaves in salty brine before finishing in a white wine vinegar pickle. The preserving time varies between each part of the plant but can take between 1 and 6 months.
The white dots that sometimes appear on the caper buds, caperberries and caper leaves when they’re preserved are a natural reaction to fermentation when mustard oils are released. This is the crystallization of an anti-oxidant called bioflavonoid rutin.