Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Caper Season in Morocco

For than 10 days now, it’s been more than 40° c. in the countryside. From time to time the Chergui, the hot wind coming from the Sahara desert, blows and makes all attempt of leaving the house very difficult.

Fortunately, the straw and the earth of our mudbrick house are very insulating. It’s easier to fall asleep in our house than in an appartment in Fez, because it keeps us cool.

Our garden suffers because of that crazy heat. In spite of our water tank and our water-treatment ponds, we’re running out of water. The ponds are empty, it’s so hot that the water evaporate instantly.

Only one plant seems to be adapted to this climate.

Caper trees do nothing like the other plants here and grow at the moment when everything else dies. Once the wheat harvest is over, small shrubs appear in the fields, and grow bigger every week. It seems that the less water there is, the more caper trees are happy.

Oddly enough, the caper trees grow in parallel lines, as if they had been planted by man – which had been maybe the case, a long time ago.

The inhabitants of Ouled Mgatel benefit from this indestructible plant. They don’t eat it though.

Our neighbors gather the capers

Caper trees make new caper every week. But do you know what are capers anyway ? They are not the fruit of the caper tree, but its flower buds. The flowers are beautiful, and they have a very nice fragrance.

People here gather the capers when they are big, much bigger than we’re used to see them in the jar in the European supermarket. Then the capers are sold at the market. This year, peasants get 15 dirhams (1,40 euro) for a kilogram of caper. Then, the capers of Ouled Mgatel (and of the all area of course !) begin their trip around the world; they are sold in China. There, it seems, people like big capers.

Believe me, capers are hard to pick, mainly because of the big thorns. Plus, they are only a few capers on each branch, which makes for a long picking. And the picking has to be done every week.

I really wanted to pick some, because I had this idea of jars of capers in my cupboard, and pizzas, and pastas… Well, I certainly was too confident. And I gave up, after 20 minutes of painful picking. Here is my (bad) harvest :

Yeah, I know, it’s disappointing, even if, contrary to my neighbors, I only picked the small ones, that is, the ones closer to the thorns…

I put my meager harvest in a jar, with a mixture of vinegar, salt, and water, but I won’t give you the recipe before I try to eat it !

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