The caper harvest is in full swing in Pantelleria, the tiny, volcanic island in the Strait of Sicily. Characterized by blistering hot days, cold nights, and extreme winds, Pantelleria climate isn’t ideal for most crops, but a unique cultivar of caper plants thrives here. The spinosa nocellara variety can only be found in Pantelleria, and its capers are often considered the best in the world. In fact, they are the only capers in Italy to have an I.G.P. (protected geographic denomination). The island’s mineral-rich, volcanic soil and extreme temperature fluctuations result in extra flavorful capers with a bright color and firm texture.
Capers are the unopened flower buds of the bushy shrub that blooms between May and September. Harvesting is hard work, the buds have to be hand-picked off thorny plants one at a time, under the blazing sun of Pantelleria. The buds are then stored in the prized sea salt from Trapani, instead of brine, since water was historically scarce in Pantelleria, giving the capers an even stronger flavor. Capers should be briefly soaked, rinsed and squeezed dry before use.
The mature fruit of the plant (known as caper berries) are also fully edible, delightfully crisp, and delicious. Larger than capers, the berries have seeds inside, which adds crunch to their texture. The leaves of the plant are also harvested and dehydrated, and make a delightful, crispy garnish for a variety of dishes.
We source our caper products from Kazzen, which was founded in 2004 by the D'Ancona brothers with the mission to develop and preserve the native capers and agriculture of their beautiful island home. Alessandro D’Ancona and his wife use their family land to cultivate their capers and oregano along with other vegetables and fruits. Their production facility is situated right beside the growing fields so the fresh capers travel only meters to be processed and salted.
Explore the unique, aromatic, world famous capers of Pantelleria here: