Why Salina Island is known for its capers?
And why are they the best compared to others capers which are also grown in the Mediterranean area?
Lets not talk about any scientific, botanic, organic o cultural reasons, instead we should discover its origins and understand how to enjoy eating capers which are the greatest source of Salina and the Aeolian islands wine-and-food.
Divine, heavenly, celestial: those are few of the words used to describe the capers bud which is the essential ingredient of the local traditional cuisine and part of the Slow Food production of Salina Island. We all have seen pictures of beautiful capers flowers with colorful stamens and pistils but the caper´s true secret of beauty lies in its heavenly scent. Visiting Salina Island gives the chance to admire capers plants and experience the delicate and attractive scent released by their flowers.
Since ancient times the capers flowers are called “ The Mediterranean Orchid” and in Salina the capers plants have always found the perfect home to highlight their genetic characteristic, cultivation and storage method. Salina Island´s pride is the centuries-old capers cultivation which is made with old traditions and caring gestures. Compared to other varieties, Nocellara capers ( “cultivar”) is unique in its form, taste and long-keeping. The capers from Salina Island are different to those commercially widespread: they are roundish (capers normally have a squashed shape) and more firm. It is no coincidence that Salina´s capers are a Slow Food production.
In May for about 4 months producers religiously start harvesting the capers. For the rest of the year the capers plants are left only with long shoots. Salina´s capers are sold in different ways according to the size and the stage of growth: the small bud “ la puntina” firm, decorative and with a delicate aroma; the medium bud “il cappero mezzano” with an intense flavor and greatly palatable; the big bud “ il capperone” rich in taste, ideally for cooking and to enrich salads. The full maturity of the bud produces the capers fruit called “cucuncio” which is very rich in flavor and shaped like a small gherkin with a long stalk.
Salina´s capers represent a significant market presence for the commercial sector. The capers production pays great attention to the products quality and the use of the sea salt as the only method to preserve the product. In the last decade Salina has started and developed the growth and the preservation method (such as freezing) of the capers specifically intended for the preparation of cosmetic and pharmaceutical products.