The number of jars of capers is much reduced this year so I decided to replenish the stash. What I wasn't prepared for this year was to start the harvest in April, uh, actually in March. I started keeping detailed records of my harvests in 2010 and that year I harvested the first tiny picking of 3/4 ounce on May 10. In 2011 the harvest started on May 19 with a bit more impressive (hah!) harvest of 1.6 ounces. And in 2012 the harvest started off with 1 ounce collected on May 9. You can see why I don't expect to start harvesting capers in March or April. So I was amazed when I got home from vacation on March 25 this year and spotted buds on the caper bushes that were ready to harvest. Unfortunately I just couldn't get around to harvesting them until April 2 so the plants were already sporting showy blossoms. I plucked off the blossoms and every bud that was about to open and discarded them. Then I harvested 3 ounces of buds. This morning I harvested for the fourth time this month. Here they are...
|Fresh caper buds|
Here's the crop so far this year, the latest harvest on the left, the two previous combined in the center, and the first harvest on the right.
I've changed the method I use to preserve the capers. In the past I've prepared a brine solution and immersed the capers in it. This year I'm just mixing the fresh capers with plain coarse sea salt. The salt draws moisture out of the capers and creates a brine from their own moisture.
I keep the jars in the refrigerator and give them a shake when I think of it. The first batch may be ready soon, I'll know when they taste good, but I haven't tasted any yet. When they are tasty I'll drain the brine, give them a rinse, and then repack them with some fresh salt.
These are some of the buds on my unusual Pink Flowering caper. This plant is also unusual because the buds develop a lot of nectar on their surfaces which is clearly visible.
These are buds on one of my Croatian plants. They also develop nectar on the surfaces of the buds but not nearly as much as the buds on the Pink Flowering plant. My fingers are always sticky when I'm finished harvesting capers. The ants collect the nectar, you can see one on the bud near the center of the photo.
These are my Croatian bushes. They are really happy this year, which is a surprise because they got very zinged when we had a few consecutive nights back in December when the temperature dipped into the low 20ºF range. Not only did the plants get frost bitten, but I also didn't get around to pruning them when I should have back in January or February. I finally trimmed out a lot of the dead stems when I harvested the first buds a couple of weeks ago. I'm not sure why it is, but the plants seem to grow back most vigorously after being zinged by a freeze. If I prune out an equivalent amount of growth after a less frosty winter they don't respond as well. I'm still learning the finer points of winter care for these plants...
Here's the Croatian plants again. They are growing atop a wall and the easiest way to harvest the buds from the tops of the plants is to use the ladder, which is staying there for the season, I'm too lazy to schlep it out every time I want to harvest. Maybe I should find a prettier ladder.
Oh well, if the harvest continues as normal I'll only have to look at it until the beginning of August.