Rachel’s Wanderings in Spain – 7 – Summer Nights, Capers and Caperberries
So August is here. The earth is hard baked and any ground foliage golden brown but there is one wild plant that is resplendant at the moment and that is Capparis Spinosa the exotically flowering caper plant. It’s a crawler or hanging plant as it often appears in dry stone walls and tumbles down and it has the most beautiful delicate flowers but watch out, it has a sting. Nasty little barbed thorns that delight in hooking themselves into your fingers and hanging on with all their might are hiding amonst the white and purple blooms. I don’t deal with these rampant plants that threaten to take over my garden without some thick gloves on now.
But what a plant! Beautiful flowers, capers and caperberries all from one usually unwelcome flora. The Spanish don’t seem to pick the capers or the fruit buds but wait until they’ve grown into caperberries. At the moment everytime I go out there’s a bum in the air as a forager wrestles with thorns and berries. I’ve been there. Taken by my adoptee grannies to forage, me with my empty plastic bread bag, they with their long pinnies used like a kangaroo pouch to stuff full of caperberries.
I followed all their instructions, washed them, soaked them, packed them in jars with salt, left them 48 hours then washed them again, repacked them with less salt then came the tricky part. Which of my neighbours recipes to go with. This much salt, that much vinegar ‘ No way, I use… ‘ and so the arguments began. Scary. Little old Spanish ladies cuss and swear with raised voices as a pastime. They don’t get angry but are loud – always. Sadly my ‘abuelas’ are no longer with us and my instructions and teachings of yestayear fond memories. Although many I soon adopted to my way of doing or not as the caperberries weren’t a success. Not even eat-everything hubby liked them. Read about my fig drying experiences with them Learning Fig Drying and Fig Roll Making with the Local Ladies.
This week I had great pleasure in seeing something new. The 80-odd year old husband of my lemon-providing neighbour was spotted with a small, ancient, draw-string cloth bag, which reminded me of my pump bag at school. I asked him what he was doing because to me it looked like he was cutting lengths of dried grass stalks all to the same size, about a finger length long. He was.! Now I was rivetted and rather perplexed, in 23 years this was a first. He explained that these pieces of dried stems were used to lay across the top of the jars or bowls in which the capers were marinading! ‘Why’ I said ‘What for?’
‘To keep out the flies and dust but let them breath’ he said in an isn’t it obvious tone. Nothing is obvious to me. Not how things were done before plastic ( a pet hatred,) when they had so little and had to forage and preserve everything possible. When food was scarce, not thrown away like today. Don’t start me on those topics!
I love where I live. These people, the older generation, are so open and caring and so amazingly knowledgable about the countryside and survival yet their grandkids don’t appreciate it or want to learn from them. They want everything easy, to live in towns and grimace at the old way of life. I so hope they will never need to survive from the land without Google’s help as they won’t have a clue.
Summer nights now start to draw in slowly and cool down slowly as usually the last fortnight in July is the hottest but the weather is changing and many place in Europe have had higher temperature than us last month and that’s ok with me. It’s been a quite pleasant rather than overbearing summer so far. Sitting on the patio with silence prevailing. The cat and dog demanding attention and the stars overhead, in this Starlight Reserve, like a thousand shining drops of sand in the blackness of the cloudless sky. Not forgetting of course with a Rioja or Ribera in hand. Cheers!
B C ing U in two weeks.