Author Topic: Capparis breeding  (Read 505 times)

Garrett Schantz

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Capparis breeding
« on: 2022-02-15, 02:10:05 PM »
I was looking around online, found a species that I have heard of before - but hadn't researched much because growing it would be a hassle.

The most common species (Capparis inermis) seems to have a USDA hardiness of Zones 8b or 9a+.

I am currently living in Zone 6.


A certain website has brought to my attention, The Caucasian Caper (Capparis herbacea).

The type that I bought was collected in the in the dry steppes of Kyrgyzstan. The country has cold - frosty winters. Supposedly pretty hot in the lowlands, cooler in the mountains.

The collection site was at lower elevations where it gets quite cold in winter, and he guesses that this plant will survive at least zone 6 in North America.


I am unsure if the species will actually survive in my zone or lower ones. I will try growing it and see how it performs in comparison to the common species.

If nothing else, I am assuming that it will probably do well in zones 7, 8 and 9. Typically, the common species can only handle minimal frosts - cold.


Of course, this isn't exactly an easy species to get ahold of or find different accessions of. Not exactly a common food plant here.

But, many Capparis species will readily hybridize with each other. The common species is thought to be a mix of a bunch of different species.

There are species from Asia, Europe - quite a nice range.

So, I have decided to attempt hybrids with C. herbacea and C. inermis. Many websites list C. herbacea as a subspecies as it seems to readily hybridize with C. inermis. Which is very nice for me. Both species are eaten / used in the same ways.

Mostly using C. inermis here for traits that humans have selected out for productivity. The Greeks and other cultures have used this plant for quite some time, probably some nice selections that I would want to add to the cold hardy species.


I also bought C. zeylanica seeds from another seller - more of a medicinal plant. May or may not use it in breeding. Fruit ripens to a red color, this is from India. The fruits can be cooked and eaten.


These are climbing woody shrubs. Typically, the fruit and flowers are pickled.


I am very much interested in creating or introducing food plants that can be grown across North America and elsewhere - increasing the amounts of foods from other Families. In the past humans had a more diverse diet.

Capparis is in the Capparaceae family - in the Brassicales order. Sometimes the Capparaceae is included in the Brassicaceae as they are very closely related. But, they diverged some time ago.


Don't know if anyone else here would be interested in this project, I will be starting some seeds here soon.

Planning on making an area for climbing shrubs like Akebia, Capparis, Hablitzia, Kadsura longipedunculata (Supposedly hardy to zone 7), Schisandra chinensis, perennial melothria species and some perennial beans. The trellises will be close to each other, but with spacing as other vines may dominate weaker ones.

Should be fun weeding out certain things.
« Last Edit: 2022-02-15, 02:13:28 PM by Garrett Schantz »

Jeremy Weiss

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Re: Capparis breeding
« Reply #1 on: 2022-02-15, 06:44:08 PM »
I'm guessing that your Caucasian caper site was Richter's Seed Zoo. That's certainly where I saw them.

I'm not 100% sure but I think capers need fairly alkaline soil, and lots of calcium. I say this because I remember reading in an old books that, in Europe,  they believed capers grew best (in fact, the book said only) on ancient Greek and Roman marble ruins. That it must be ruins is palpable nonsense, but I suppose they might be fond of decaying marble, and that might be worth considering.

Garrett Schantz

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Re: Capparis breeding
« Reply #2 on: 2022-02-15, 10:13:09 PM »
Probably depends on the species. Some of them are found in arid locations - not much calcium.

Decaying marble could be favorable for plant growth.

Might try creating an alkaline soil medium - thanks for the tip. Preparing a spot might be necessary.

Correct on the source.

Ocimum

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Re: Capparis breeding
« Reply #3 on: 2022-02-16, 01:16:24 AM »
...Some of them are found in arid locations - not much calcium.
...
Depending on the mother rock, arid location can have a lot of calcium.
I have seen a wild Capparis bush at about 1800 m of altitude in the Atlas mountain in Morocco, it was in a limestone rock/cliff, safe from goats.

Garrett Schantz

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Re: Capparis breeding
« Reply #4 on: 2022-02-16, 10:39:53 AM »
Tried looking into this a bit more.

https://gardenerspath.com/plants/herbs/how-to-grow-capers/#:~:text=They%20like%20well%2Ddrained%2C%20rocky,of%20ancient%20buildings%20throughout%20Italy!

Seems like they can grow on the walls of buildings.

Having some rocks underneath the soil might even work.

Calcium seems to help them grow, but they don't necessarily need a ton of it. Having a ton of it is probably nice for them though.


If I am going for flower / fruit production, fertilization either by using compost or another means, calcium will be added in there a bit. These are perennials being used for food, so fertilization is pretty much a must.

Goats and other things seem to be the main reason as to why these aren't more widespread - found in hard to access locations.


These aren't high in nutrients - typically covered in brine. Probably not the healthiest thing around. Might work well paired with other things.

Jeremy Weiss

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Re: Capparis breeding
« Reply #5 on: 2022-02-16, 10:49:17 AM »
Remember that, if you miss any buds before they open, or it turns out you have more fruits than you need for seeds (they're pretty seedy, so that is quite possible) you can pickle and eat the immature fruits as well (they're called caper berries). I don't like them particularly (I find them too crunchy) but some people do.

And apparently, some of the Asian and Australian species (primarily C. masaikai) produce a chemical in their seeds that makes them taste sweet, and those are used as a confection there.

Garrett Schantz

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Re: Capparis breeding
« Reply #6 on: 2022-02-16, 12:28:11 PM »
Remember that, if you miss any buds before they open, or it turns out you have more fruits than you need for seeds (they're pretty seedy, so that is quite possible) you can pickle and eat the immature fruits as well (they're called caper berries). I don't like them particularly (I find them too crunchy) but some people do.

And apparently, some of the Asian and Australian species (primarily C. masaikai) produce a chemical in their seeds that makes them taste sweet, and those are used as a confection there.


I wonder if the sweeter species would be useful in breeding - or if other species are nutritious...

Should be fun trying to source seed for these things.


Quick Wikipedia search

The origin of the sweet taste was identified as sweet-tasting proteins named mabinlins. They are highly sweet, 100-400 times sweeter than sucrose on a weight basis

If I could breed a cold hardy C. masaikai, this could be a home grown solution for diabetics or other people seeking sweeteners.

Of course, sourcing any of these seeds here in the U.S. is rather tricky or impossible.

The proteins found in C. masaikai do not appear to be heat stable, so pickling them with the boiled immature fruit might not work. Also won't work in other common applications for sweeteners, unless used rather quickly.
« Last Edit: 2022-02-16, 12:35:11 PM by Garrett Schantz »

Jeremy Weiss

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Re: Capparis breeding
« Reply #7 on: 2022-02-16, 02:06:23 PM »
Well, that same Wikipedia article mentions that two Australian species as common "bush tucker", and that one of those is a subspecies of spinosa (which presumably means that the fruits of the ordinary spinosa are edible when ripe as well.)

Didn't find that species, but B&T World Seeds has three others, bonifaziana, sepiaria, and tomentosa . And all seem to be in stock. They're expensive, and take a little time, but they certainly DO ship to the U.S. (I just used them to get my Carya cathayensis nuts)

Rarepalmseeds.com has one more, cartilagenea, (they also have two former members that are now in the genus Morisonia, but those look like they are pretty far removed and probably wouldn't breed.) Just note that the have a 25 euro minimum order so you'll need to find a few other things to order at the same time. (don't worry, you probably won't have a problem with that, their list is pretty big.). Oh and they take a fair amount of time (more than B&T)

As a diabetic myself, I can see the advantage in you plan. I still think thought, it would probably be more efficient to try and northernize stevia (which can already be grown as an annual around here) or monk fruit. They have bigger industries. And the article doesn't mention what effect mabinlins HAVE on blood sugar, so it might not be a suitable choice (being so much sweeter than sucrose is and advantage in terms of reducing the amount needed, but when compared to sweeteners that have NO effect (like monkfruit) or actually LOWER blood sugar (like stevia) there would seem to be no comparison. )