The caper, whose name comes from the Arabic ‘cabr’ or ‘cabir’ is from the Asiatic, subtropical area.
If left to blossom, they are very beautiful flowers, elegant and fragile, exotic.
The fruit is called ‘cucunci’ and looks like a gherkin. If you can see the plant in flower it means that the cultivation has been neglected.
Every flower is a caper not picked.
In the Eolian Islands there are two varieties: the ‘nocella’ and the ‘nocellara’, whose fruit, since time immemorial has been put in salt to give it a particular taste.
The ground, the cultivation, the air, the method of preservation, make the caper of Salina a unique and unrepeatable product, the very emblem of the island.
It is the main characteristic of Eolian cuisine, you will find it in starters, salads, pasta, flavourings for second courses, or simply on its own with home-made bread, just out of the oven.
But the caper isn’t only a pleasure to eat. Even in the 1600’s a treatise extolled its curative properties.
It kindled appetite, lowered blood pressure and mitigated toothache.
There is another quality of the caper not to be underestimated: it seems to rekindle another kind of appetite!
This belief is widespread in the Mediterranean area and is part of popular tradition.
In any case, its therapeutic properties for lowering cholesterol have recently been discovered.
A land so rich in smells, scents, colours and contrasts had to have a strong cuisine. Strong not in the sense of robust, but sensual.
Almost all the recipes of the island have this characteristic. The important and constant presence of the caper gives every dish the same sensuality of the plant, the slight fleshiness of the flower, the famous potentiality of the fruit.
Dishes rich in colour and warmth, which you devour with your eyes before tasting them.
The colours are an integral and irreplaceable part of the dishes.
The shades of dark green, typical of the caper, fade away with the light red of tomatoes, with the intense green of basil and of mint, the dazzling white of garlic, with the violet stripes of onion, with the yellow of lemon peel, the yellow/green oil.
Every dish is an invitation to pleasure.
To enjoy fully these sensations, in all their complexity, you should go to Salina in spring.
The Caper Festival
The first weekend of June sees the ‘Caper Festival’ in Pollara, organised by the cultural association ‘Didyme 90’ and the island administration.
The festival is held over two days and includes sports events, street games, folkloristic and musical performances.
The main protagonist is the caper: capers in salads, with pasta, with meat, with fish, with vegetables, with snacks or, simply, on their own.
There is a display of typical local produce with the tasting of dozens of traditional dishes from the island’s cuisine prepared by restaurants and local people.
The festival is held in the square in front of the church of Saint Onofrio and sees the participation of thousands of people every year; many of these are tourists who are amazed and enchanted by the atmosphere of the event.
It is just like being at home among relations, thanks to the kindness and cheerfulness of the people, which make a perfect complement to the genuine and delicious Eolian cuisine.