One of the plants I am planning on growing this year is the Nasturtium. I want to grow it because the flowers and leaves are edible. It is also a rapid grower in poor soils with pretty flowers. While researching nasturtiums, I discovered that people use the seeds as “poor man’s capers” by pickling them. This lead me to do some further research into real capers and where they grow. I found that they grow in Mediterranean climates where there is dry heat with little rainfall. There are few places on earth with that Mediterranean climate. Obviously much of the Mediterranean falls into that category, luckily for me most of San Diego County has the same climate.
The Caper plant seems to be a great addition to my yard. It should grow where I live and we enjoy eating capers. The next step was to find a place to get seeds, and learn how to grow them. I found a great website called Seeds from Italy that had the caper seeds among many other things. I placed an order for the caper seeds, and a minute later Lynn asked if they had Marzano tomatoes. There is a type of canned tomatoes she likes that uses them. I checked the website and they did have the seeds so I placed an order for them. That was two separate orders with two shipping fees. The nice people at Seeds from Italy sent me an email within minutes confirming my orders and since I was shipping to the same place they combined the orders under one shipping fee and gave me a refund for the other. That type of customer service and kindness is rare and I will definitely buy from them again.
Today my seed packs came in the mail.
Capers are supposed to be difficult to get to sprout. Here are the instructions from Seeds from Italy.
How to grow capers
Mature caper bushes can grow three feet high and spread four or five feet. They require dry heat and intense sunlight to flourish. They will be killed by temperatures below 20 degrees F. In the north, bring the plants inside during the winter or just grow them in pots in a greenhouse. Seeds are dormant and notoriously difficult to germinate. You can just try starting the seeds, but the following technique will give the best success (40-50%).
Soak the seeds in warm water for 24 hours. Put seeds in a wet towel, seal in a plastic bag and leave in the refrigerator for 6-8 weeks. Remove, soak again in warm water for 24 hours. Plant seeds 3/8 inch deep (lcm) in a mixture of potting soil/perlite/sand (50/25/25%). Use 4-6″ pots and put 4-5 seeds per pot. Seeds should germinate in 3-4 weeks. Grow until 3-5″ tall. Save the best plant; cut the rest with a scissors(don ‘t just pull them out). When transplanting, disturb the root as little as possible. For northem gardeners, when transplanting, protect plant from elements until it has taken (cover with plastic bag for the first 3-4 days, then cut top of the bag to admit some of the elements and leave a week, then remove entire bag) or use row covers. While not the easiest plant to grow, it is worth the effort to harvest and make your own capers.
I have my seeds in warm water as I write this, and will write more about the caper in a few months.
If you are looking for seeds, Seeds from Italy is a place I would check out. They are a family-owned company distributing seeds from a family-owned company in Italy. The Italian family has been selling seeds for 229 years. That is the kind of history and story that I enjoy reading about and supporting.