Depaysement: A Change of Scenery unlocks inspiration
Yeast in French... and in wine + next Bandol winetastings

Join us here at home + A Santorini Caper


Join us tomorrow at 3:30 pm for a winetasting. Jean-Marc and I are happy to welcome you here (near Bandol). Confirm at [email protected]

More tasting dates: October 3rd and October 19. Email the address above, for more info.

TODAY'S WORD: la câpre

    : caper

le câprier = caper plant

Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words:
Download MP3 or Wav

Il y a longtemps on trouvait des capres dans les restanques de Provence, mais aujourd'hui ils ne sont plus cultivées, car ils ne sont plus rentables. A long time ago you could find capers among the rock wall terraces of Provence, but today they are no longer cultivated, as they are no longer profitable.


by Kristin Espinasse

I first discovered caper leaves while eating lunch at Sigalas vineyard in Santorini. Having crashed my sister's Greek vacation, I was now calculating how many pieces of charcuterie I could slide onto my plate without seeming greedy. I noticed how Heidi and her friends enjoyed ordering many dishes and sharing them--an amicable practice to be sure--but for those who are impatient and food obsessed, it is torture to hold back in the name of good manners when your eyes are begging to try two of everything!


When a plate of appetizers was passed to me, I chose one slice of pastourma, a match stick of goat's cheese and a sliver of roasted red pepper--regretfully leaving the salami that shouted "take me! take me!" Somebody else would appreciate it getting it. And sure enough, my husband snapped it up as soon as the plate circled back to him, adding it to the unrestricted choices he had made earlier and washing it all down with white wine!

Grrh! I sipped on my fizzy water, and ate slowly while keeping an eye on the next platter. "I think those are caper leaves!" my friend Kim said, passing me a plate of pureed fava beans (really split peas--but that's another story!). "Try them!"

I scooped up a (small) serving of puree, adding one--oh heck, three!--dark green marinated leaves to my plate. The pureed beans being garnished with chopped red onion, I grabbed those too.

One of the mysteries of life is this: you never know where or when a new passion will hit. And just like that you hunger to discover all you can about something to which you once gave short shrift. Chewing on those tender round leaves set the mechanics of my mind in motion: capers! I must know more about capers! And isn't it funny how the moment you become aware of something it appears around every corner?

Walking back to our rented apartment, looking out over the volcanic cliff to the turquoise sea, I noticed a magnificent specimen jutting from the rocky falaise. There it was! The caper plant! So that is what it looked like? Beautiful!

After the first sighting, I accompanied Jean-Marc to another vineyard. As a colleague at Hatzidakis Winery presented the organic domain, I looked around and noted many signs of permaculture - from the composting banana peels and withering zucchini tossed into the vines at the entrance--to the office trailer which sported a second roof (a thick layer of grape stems! Instead of tossing them, the stems were used to insulate the building) this winery was obviously sensitive to nature, and here was someone who could surely tell me more about capers! A plant that will take on more and more importance in the coming years of climate change (capers like arid soil and can grow out of a rock!).

As my husband drank in every word about his new favorite Santori wine, I dared cut into the conversation. "Excuse me, but could you please tell me something about capers?" Eyeing Jean-Marc, I said my mea culpas - pleading with him to be patient. He'd had his wine, now let me have my capers!

The vineyard man smiled. "Nobody has succeeded in cultivating capers on the island. You won't find caper farms here. The plants are wild!"

"I've managed to find some seeds," I explained, telling about the pod I'd harvested from a plant outside a tourist town.

"Good luck planting them in France," he said. "If they grow here, it is the local ants that help them along."

I imagined the ants consuming the seeds and leaving the droppings deep in the crevaces of the rock walls where these plants (weeds, really) grow. "Well, we have plenty of ants! I announced. Argentinian ants!" If an argentinian ant can conquer France, it will surely know what to do with these historic seeds.

"Illustration Capparis spinosa0" by Otto Wilhelm Thomé (1840-1925) - Flora von Deutschland Österreich und der Schweiz, via Wikipedia

That night in bed I began a google frenzy and learned even more about capers, notably their medicinal value. Those who suffer from arthritis (rheumatism) and gout would do well to increase their consumption of capers! I would be adding the berries and leaves to my husband's meals very soon!

I returned home with several bottles of pickled capers and caper leaves - and those precious seeds! No sooner had we touched down in Marseilles, but I was in our back yard making mud balls.

"Seed bombs," I noted, posting the pictures on my Instagram, where I like to record the progress of our garden. Seed bombs are used by guerrilla gardeners:

The first seed grenades were made from balloons filled with tomato seeds, and fertilizer. They were tossed over fences onto empty lots in New York City in order to make the neighborhoods look better. It was the start of the guerrilla gardeningmovement. (Wikipedia)



Pictured: The first caper plant spotted outside our hotel and the seedpod I harvested from another plant. And there are the seedbombs I made with some green clay from my medicine cabinet, two parts soil from our vineyard and a sprinkling of seeds (the rest of the seeds were saved for another try at planting, this fall and next spring!)

It felt so good to have mud on my hands and to breathe in the scent of childhood, when passions came so quickly and when we followed them anywhere, without fear!  

So much more to say about capers, we have only scratched the surface. But I am out of breath now, having blurted out all I've learned so far.  Once I settle down, I will send more updates on Facebook or Instagram, if you would like to join me there, and please do!

I leave you with our anniversary picture and the message I left Jean-Marc, on returning from Greece. And yesterday, I got the perfect anniversary gift: three caper plants from our local nursery. Sure, I had already planted seeds, but, as the French say:

Il faut  mettre toutes les chances de notre côté! One must put all luck on our side! How true this is for plants and even for a marriage. (No! More than luck, marriage is patience and tolerance and love and forgiveness. The same ingredients I will use to tend my baby capriers!)


Happy anniversary, Jean-Marc. I remember walking down the street with you, in my neighborhood in The Valley of the Sun, and seeing that the brightest light was walking right beside me! Looking up at you, I recognized a dazzling star and I wondered if I could ever reach it (that is, did you like me too?). I am still amazed, 23 years later, that you continue to hold out your hand for me, so that I may join you on the all mountain tops toward which you climb. Sometimes I've gone kicking and screaming, but, more and more I go with steps of gratitude. And I wake up each day wondering what I would ever do without you.

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Smelling the scent of capers and caper bush on santorini island Greece leather sandals

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Hi kristin, belated Happy anniversary wishes. I love reading about your permaculture passions.
Living in Brittany I don't think capers will grow. However I have just found my new passion in the wild. Cornus mas ( a type of dogwood) also known as Cornelian cherry it seems to be used a lot in Iran and turkey, and I have just made the most delicious jam, adding lime juice and cardoman. I cut a small branch and am trying to root it for the garden, as the shrub is beautiful as well as useful. The birds love the fruit, so will us it in my fruiting hedge, which I am supposed to share with them


Joyeux anniversaire de mariage, chere Kristen et Jean Marc. How wonderful to travel to Greece to celebrate, and I look forward to your latest planting/culinary "caper"! Hahaha.

We have laughed and cryed
Chuckled and sighed
Following you two
On your French life ride.

Open and honest
Sweet and true
Quelle pleasure, knowing Y.O.U.!

Best wishes for a long and happy life--may our FWaD community grow old and crotchety together...but always with loving hearts.

Patty, in a soon-to-be very rainy Roanoke.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you so much,  Patty!
And to Cronald25 - so enjoyed learning about Cornus Mas. Will Google now!

Sara Somers

Happy Anniversary, Kristy. How I wish I could join you down South. But know I'm sending you lots of love for your anniversaire and best wishes for your new growing adventure!!!

Cindy Mc

Joyeux Anniversaire Kristi. J'aime ta quête de câpres. My husband used to make marinated shrimp using capers ... Yum! Bon chance chérie.

Kristin, thank you for sharing your life. I feel such a kinship. How well you express my feelings!

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
The Caper plant is quite pretty! I've never seen one and hope it grows for you at your home!

elizabeth claverie

happy anniversary and happy travels. i also discovered a "caper berry" marinated in a large jar sitting on a bar in southern spain. LOVED IT..thus beginning my foray on the 'net to find out what i was really you, discovering much along the way.

this is from The Splendid Table
Apr 3, 2014 - David Rosengarten visited Pantelleria, Italy, or "caper heaven." He explains the difference between caper buds and caper berries, as well as some info on the leaves of the same plant. it's worth a read.


Happy Anniversary! What a beautiful picture and memory you'll always have of it. I can hear the excitement in your voice about the caper leaves and taking the seed pods back home to France to grow!! What a sweet, thoughtful thing Jean-Marc has done in purchasing you your own plants. I look forward to reading updates! Do the leaves taste similar to capers?? Pickled? Or are they like grape leaves? wondering as well about the beans/peas you dipped them in. Intriguing!! Your anniversary note reminds me of my own husband (leading me up mountaintops) who so dearly loves me! Our anniversary is coming up as well. :-)

N vandenberg

Lovely way to start my day. Thank you for sharing Adding capers to market list. Thx n

catharine ewart-touzot

Happy anniversary and off to a new adventure..which I feel gardening is all about..the post about a variety of dogwood makes me remember so many years ago my question to my French husband, an engineer, do you have dogwoods in France..his reply was what do they look like and I began by saying spring they are loaded with lovely white flowers..well of course he thought and meant apple now I finally after 20 years, know that a variety
does in fact grow. Capers I have never tried, wonder if they would grow on the beach quite evidently they are salt tolerant.


Sending you, and your garden, all the best. Your note to JM was touching and inspiring, I wish you both many more years of happiness.

Kathleen from Connecticut

I love capers and must always have them in the pantry. We could never grow them in Connecticut....way to cold.
Great anniversary picture. We should have taken one for our anniversary. Oh well, another year we will have a picture or us and not the Candelabra. We might need to get a selfie stick.



Capers! I recently had almost the same obsession. One day recently I thought, "What the heck are capers, anyway?" and like you, off I went on the web to find out. ..

Our best to you and JM on your Anniversary! We just celebrated 26 years....

Cynthia P. Lewis

Both the note and the picture which you left for Jean-Marc couldn't be more beautiful! Happy Anniversary to two remarkable people with wishes for many, many more years filled with joie de vivre.

Don Lambert

Happy Anniversary Kristin! You & Marc have something special & to be treasured - that's for sure. I always enjoy reading your Word-A-Day emails.

Julie Farrar

While I don't like the caper seeds in various dishes because they are often too salty, I do like the medicinal value you mentioned. I'm searching for any food that might be anti-inflammatory. I know I can't grow the plant in St. Louis, but I wonder if I can find the leaves in an organic grocery store?

Cynthia Gillespie-Smith

Oh la la, such an informative and beautiful post! JM must have been very touched!


Happy Anniversary Kristin and Jean Marc! And happy gardening :-)

Karen Cafarella

What a beautiful and fun story. Wishing you many more happy years!
I too am going to see if I can find any in the organic grocery store.


Libby Wilkie

We will celebrate our 40th Anniversary on Sunday, the 27th. And yes, I too wonder what I would do without my shining star. He is my very best friend.
I don't comment often here, but just love reading your posts and stories! Merci bien.

Joyce Hickey

What a truly beautiful tribute for your anniversary. I wish you many more years of happiness. Loved your story on the capers, our winters are too cold here in Idaho to try growing them outside. I did grow a date palm from seed which is rapidly taking over our breakfast room! Joyce

bj tuininga

Ah Kristin as a personal vegetarian chef I take great delight in presenting new and different flavors to my customers. Capers are one gastronomic delight that have never seems to disappoint... I wish you well with you gardening experience and envy your climate as we approach the fall of a northeastern change climate...still warm, but we know what is ahead.

Your trip to Greece was like a healthy Vitamin shot...I love the anniversary photo. Marriage does indeed have ups and downs, but you two do seem to have it worked out!

Hugs bj from NY


Our dearest Kristi,
As much as I loved today's post and learning about capers(which are a favorite of ours),your anniversary words at the bottom to Jean Marc absolutely captured my heart and my imagination.
God has blessed you both to be together and blessed us as well to have you in our lives.
Congratulations!!!!!Please know we share your joy.
Natalia. xo


Happy Anniversary, Kristin and Jean-Marc!

The sunset photo of you two in Greece is sublime.

May you enjoy many more sunsets, sunrises, and "capers" together!

Gros biosus de Trish et JeanClaude


That last anniversary paragraph is a tear-jerker. Lovely. Thank you for sharing.

Joan L.

Best Wishes!

Jill Ferrie

So enjoyed your post today. I too will look into capers. Only remembering eating them when we lived in Antigua many years ago. I am happy to be part of this FWAD community and wish you all the best on your anniversary with your loved one. Amities, Jill



Kristin Espinasse


edie schmidt


Bon anneversaire and good luck with the capers!

Edie from Savannah

Diane Heinecke

Joyeux anniversaire de mariage, Kristin et Jean-Marc. Vingt-trois ans! C'est un bon commencement. : )


Moi Aussie, Kristi. Je raffole des câpres! I love ravigote sauces with white fish. Here in Australia, I do not think the leaves are available. Something to look for if I have the chance to visit Greece or other caper countries! I have a salmon pâté recipe that uses capers which have been preserved in white wine. It goes with nearly everything! (Well, that shows obsession, or unbalanced tastebuds?) .



Try making chicken piccata. The key ingredient is capers. Sauté chicken lightly floured in olive oil or butter. Preferably pounded thin. Lightly brown on both sides. Add capers, and garlic and a little lemon. Deglaze pan with white wine. Remove chicken and finish with cold butter. Salt and pepper to taste.


Yuriko Hoshino

Your seed bombs (boules de grains) reminded me that Fukuoka described the same technique in his books. I looked it up on wikipedia and found that it's an ancient technique:
I've been reading your chronicles for a decade and have never thanked you, so thank you for all your hard work and unflagging honesty.


Dear Kristi,
What a beautiful photo of the two of you! What a beautiful place to share a very special moment. Happy Belated Anniversary! Yes, it's hard to imagine what one might do without the love of their life! Just keep kissing each other and sharing your love, everyday!

Kristin Espinasse

Wonderful to wake up this morning to these inspiring and funny comments.  Yuriko,  thanks for the link on the boules de graines. So helpful!  Buffy,  love the recipe! Janet,  still giggling from your comment.
Wishing everyone a good weekend.  Take care!

Lynne Alderson

Hello.....have you visited the Centre Sebastian in St Cyr? I went to an exhibition there but was fascinated by the building's history as a factory for processing local capers, so they must grow well there. The work of the harvesters looked terribly tough!
Best wishes, Lynne (Aixcentric)

Kathleene from Bay Area, CA

Hi Kristin - With seed bombs do you just toss them wherever and hope they turn out ok, like photo bombs (hoping the picture turns out well) or do you dig a hole and plant them in what you determine is a good place for the seeds to sprout? Loved your photos from Greece and your anniversary photo.


That sounds simple but terrific, Buffy. Mes papilles, et moi, vous remercient à l'avance. Kitchen capers!

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Kathleene, see Yurikos comment,  above,  or Google seed bombs.  They need to be solid enough not to come apart when they land (no planting,  but why not? That could work too!)

Kristin Espinasse

Lynne,  Thank you for this serendipitous info on a former caper factory in our town! It is too good to be true!


Once again your enthusiasm has fired mine!
It’s possible to grow in Australia (South where the climate is Mediterranean), and maybe even in Queensland (with lots of luck)!
Awaiting la suite with bated breath… :)

specimin = specimen
and to breath in the scent = breathe
nursury.= nursery

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Jacqueline, for these helpful edits! Off to update the blog. And good luck with your own capers - I hope you plant some =-)

Diane Young

I remember capers but don't recall how long ago I had some. I love the way you dive into gardening and the many successes you have.

Marianne Rankin

I'm writing here, because the comment link in the latest post seems to be missing.

The last few audio files haven't worked, either. I tried both the MP3 and Wav files and there wasn't any audio.

Appreciate the posts, nevertheless!

Kristin Espinasse

Marianne,  I forgot to add the link to the comments box,  but you can use the link at the very end of the newsletter (it may say *read comments*). Please look for it and many thanks for your comments.
Re the audio file.  I did receive one other report this week. Is anyone else experiencing this problem?


I will surely join you guys.

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