The Spiny Caper grows in semi-arid to arid climates. It is native to Mediterranean countries such as Spain, France, Italy, Algeria and East Africa. We also find it growing around Malta and Gozo. It grows at a very fast rate, and reaches 1 metre in height and 2 metres in spread.
Its fragile, white and purplish flowers appear in summer and regretfully, are not commonly seen, as people pick its fruit and it is the fruit which turns into this flower. Hence, it is not given time to grow. At a later stage, capers are used in salads, pizzas, tomato sauce or as condiments with fish as they boost the palate with their tangy taste.
Capers also have a significant importance in medicinal purposes, as they have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and astringent properties. It is also thought to increase one’s appetite. An interesting fact many people might not know about, is the fact that it delays the signs of ageing. It normally grows in the wild, amidst crevices in the walls we have surrounding our fields, which are commonly known as “ħitan tas-sejjieħ”. A hamlet called “Kappara” which is in the vicinity of San Ġwann, (whereabouts: behind Mater Dei Hospital and The University of Malta) might have derived its name from the presence of plenty of capers.
Biblical Context: In ancient times, when the Bible was written, people believed that capers have aphrodisiac effects when consumed. Nowadays, there exists no written scientific proof of this. The Bible presents only one reference to the Spiny caper and this reads as follows-
(Ecclesiastes 12: 1-5) “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them’- before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim; when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when people rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint; when people are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags itself along and desire no longer is stirred. Then people go to their eternal home and mourners go about the streets”.
Explanation of quote: The Bible urges us to remember God before we grow old and nearing death, before all our energies disappear and we linger through the streets like a grasshopper which is dying. Our hair will be as white as the almond tree blossoms, and not even capers can instil desires in us.