The caper is a small prickly shrub, cultivated in Spain, Italy, and the southern provinces of France. The flowers are large roses of a pretty appearance, but the flower buds alone are the objects of this cultivation.
They are plucked before they open, and thrown into strong vinegar slightly salted, where they are pickled. The crop of each day is added to the same vinegar tub, so that in the course of the six months during which the caper shrub flowers, the vessel gets filled, and is sold to persons who sort the capers, (the smallest being most valued) by means of copper sieves. This metal is attacked by the acid, wherefrom the fruit acquires a green colour, much admired by ignorant connoisseurs.
The capers, as found in the French market, are distinguished into five sorts; the non-pareille, the capucine, the capote, the second, and the third; this being the decreasing order of their quality, which depends upon the strength of the vinegar used in pickling them, as also the size and colour of the buds.
The caper shrub grows in the driest situations, even upon walls, and does not disdain any soil; but it loves a hot and sheltered exposure. It is multiplied by grafts made in autumn, as also by slips of the roots taken off in spring.
A Dictionary of Arts, Manufactures and Mines...
London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green & Longmans, 1839.
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