P.G.I. PANTELLERIA CAPERS
A flagship product of Mediterranean culture and one of the most intense flavors of Sicilian cuisine, the Caper from Pantelleria is appreciated for its strong aroma and taste. The wind, volcanic soil and the torrid climate of this island in the center of the Mediterranean make it an excellent product quality, expertly worked with techniques passed down from father to son over the centuries.
The caper plant, whose scientific name is Capperis Spinosa, is a low shrub with green and fleshy leaves, a lover of dry soils, which grows spontaneously clinging to rocky slopes, but also along the city walls.
In Pantelleria this shrub has found its ideal habitat and, from May to September, among the characteristic dry stone walls that frame the landscape, the perfumes and elegant colors of its white and pink flowers with violet spikes triumph. Greeks defined them as the "orchids of the Mediterranean" for their particular beauty.
In this island of wild beauty, capers grow both spontaneously and under culture on terraces of Arab origin, according to a centuries-old tradition. Those we eat are the buds not yet open, which are harvested as soon as possible in order to preserve their aromatic properties unaltered. They are picked by hand with great patience and effort, during the cooler hours of the day in summertime, taking care to leave on the plant the buds which are not ripe enough. After harvesting, the buds are placed in wicker baskets and alternated with layers of coarse and fine sea salt. According to Pantelleria tradition, in order to favor the best ripening of the product, the capers immersed in this brine should be mixed with a quantity of salt equal to 40% of their weight. After about twenty days and periodic additions of salt, the capers of Pantelleria, which the gastronomic tradition identifies as the best in the world, are ready to be tasted.
Result of a genetic selection made by Pantelleria farmers over the centuries, the Caper from Pantelleria has become an essential reference for the economy of the island: around 12,000 quintals were produced a year in the eighties of the last century (in the last decade the production is around 2,000 quintals). In 1996, due to its uniqueness, it received the European P.G.I. (Protected Geographical Indication) recognition.
A precious fruit of the lava soil with a thousand medicinal properties, caper is an antioxidant, digestive, protects blood vessels, reduces cholesterol and rheumatic pains, is hypocaloric, rich in vitamins and mineral salts, and has been considered an aphrodisiac since ancient times. In 70 A.D. the Greek doctor and pharmacist Dioscorides spoke about it in his work De Materia Medica, describing it as a diuretic and effective food against toothache.
Thanks to their scent and intense taste, capers possess the precious quality of flavoring sauces, salads and fish dishes. They are the key element of many typical dishes of Mediterranean cuisine, such as the vegetable caponata (called Pantelleria sciakisciuka) or the Pantelleria salad.