Who would ever know that so soon after the peak of this pandemic, better conditions would allow us to travel to the Greek islands! After a ‘cloudy year’ patience and trust in science brought a reward: safe places to visit and have a nice time!
The rocky cliffs of Greek islands have ‘secrets’ to discover during hikes, with wonderful vistas, plants, aromas, emotions, and history. All along the Greek coast, along the seaside, but more specifically on the islands, some beauty is flowering this season: wild caper.
Capparis spinosa (Caper with spines), is a unique plant with a bushy form that is able to hang onto very steep rocky cliffs.
To me it seems like a green-pink fountain of life in this harsh environment. White flowers with long pink stamins decorate the plant this time of the year. We usually collect – for nourishment and healing – the buds of flowers, just before flowering. But also other parts of the plant like the leaves and roots are also valuable. Today, the plant is cultivated, offering a sustainable use of this delicacy.
In ancient Greece, Capparis had a ‘magical’ power to heal kidneys and promoting good blood circulation (i.e. protecting against thrombosis, arteriosclerosis).
Also, it was said that it not only stimulates the appetite but is also quite an aphrodisiac. For this use you boil the root or extract the buds. Nowadays, many of these beliefs have been proven. Capper buds are good for coughs, are anti-inflammatory, ease stomach pain, and could help in vaginal thrush. The root truly help with rheumatism and gastrointestinal infections, vasoconstrictive ailments, and many more medical issues.
The main use of the plant, however, is culinary. The buds as are pickled, made into ‘toursi’ in Greece. In salads or alone, you can find it in many taverns. It is delicious, but the nutritional properties of Capparis is even more impressive!
Even though it contains 84% water, only 5% carbohydrates and 2% proteins (low in calories), it is rich in sodium, iron, riboflavin, vitamin K, and many other vitamins in smaller quantities. Polyphenols like quercetin and flavonoids help with ‘bad’ cholesterol and this seems the reason why it impacts and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, with antihypertensive and anticoagulant effects.
Capparis pickle can be found anywhere in the world. In supermarkets, it is better to search for low-sodium capper, or capparis in vinegar. But this miracle of creation, this unique species can be seen only in the remote harsh places of Greece and the Mediterranean that I look forward to discovering!
* The above is not medical advice but mere suggestions for improving your diet. Before reach herbal use you should consult your doctor, especially those who have health issues, are pregnant or are under the age of 6.
Evropi-Sofia Dalampira holds a PhD in Agricultural Economics and an Msc in Botany-Biology.