AskDefine | Define caper

Dictionary Definition



1 any of numerous plants of the genus Capparis
2 pickled flower buds used as a pungent relish in various dishes and sauces
3 a crime (especially a robbery); "the gang pulled off a bank job in St. Louis" [syn: job]
4 a ludicrous or grotesque act done for fun and amusement [syn: antic, joke, prank, trick, put-on]
5 a playful leap or hop [syn: capriole]
6 gay or light-hearted recreational activity for diversion or amusement; "it was all done in play"; "their frolic in the surf threatened to become ugly" [syn: play, frolic, romp, gambol] v : jump about playfully

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. A frolicsome leap or spring; a skip; a jump, as in mirth or dancing; a prank.
  2. A vessel formerly used by the Dutch, privateer.
  3. The pungent grayish green flower bud of the European and Oriental caper (Capparis spinosa), which is pickled and eaten.
  4. A plant of the genus Capparis; -- called also caper bush, caper tree.
  5. A crime (esp. theft) or a story about such a crime.




  1. To leap or jump about in a sprightly manner; to cut capers; to skip; to spring; to prance; to dance.



  • /ˈka.pɛr/


  1. A male goat.



Related terms

Extensive Definition

The caper (Capparis spinosa L.) is a perennial spiny shrub that bears rounded, fleshy leaves and big white to pinkish-white flowers. A caper is also the pickled bud of this plant. The bush is native to the Mediterranean region, growing wild on walls or in rocky coastal areas throughout. The plant is best known for the edible bud and fruit (caper berry) which are usually consumed pickled. Other species of Capparis are also picked along with C. spinosa for their buds or fruits.

The plant

Capparis spinosa is highly variable in nature in its native habitats and is found growing near the closely related species C. sicula, C. orientalis, and C. aegyptia. Scientists can use the known distributions of each species to identify the origin of commercially prepared capers. The shrubby plant is many-branched, with alternate leaves, thick and shiny, round to ovate in shape. The flowers are complete, sweetly fragrant, showy, with four sepals, and four white to pinkish-white petals, many long violet-colored stamens, and a single stigma usually rising well above the stamens.


Capers can be grown easily from fresh seed, gathered from ripe fruit and planted into well drained seed-raising mix. Seedlings will appear in 2-4 weeks. Old, stored seeds enter a state of dormancy and require cold stratification in order to germinate. Cuttings from semi-hardwood shoots taken in Autumn may root, but this is not a reliable means of propagation. Caper plants prefer full sun in warm/temperate climates and should be treated much like cacti. They require regular watering in summer and very little during winter and are deciduous, though in warmer climates they may simply stop growing. Capers have a curious reaction to sudden increases in humidity - they form wart-like pock marks across the leaf surface. This appears to be harmless as the plant quickly adjust to the new conditions and produce unaffected leaves. Seedling capers can be expected to flower from the second to third year and live for at least decades, and probably much longer.

Culinary uses

The salted and pickled caper bud (also called caper) is often used as a seasoning or garnish. Capers are a common ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine. The mature fruit of the caper shrub is also prepared similarly, and marketed as caper berries.
The buds, when ready to pick, are a dark olive green and about the size of a kernel of maize. They are picked, then pickled in salt, or a salt and vinegar solution.
Capers are a distinctive ingredient in Sicilian and southern Italian cooking, used in salads, pizzas, meat dishes and pasta sauces. Examples of uses in Italian cuisine are chicken piccata and salsa puttanesca. They are also often served with cold smoked salmon or cured salmon dishes (especially lox and cream cheese). Capers are also sometimes substituted for olives to garnish a martini.
Capers are categorized and sold by their size, defined as follows, with the smallest sizes being the most desirable: Non-pareil (0-7 mm), surfines (7-8 mm), capucines (8-9 mm), capotes (9-11 mm), fines (11-13 mm), and grusas (14+ mm).
Unripe nasturtium seeds can be substituted for capers; they have a very similar texture and flavour when pickled.

Medicinal uses

In Greek popular medicine a herbal tea made of caper root and young shoots is considered to be beneficial against rheumatism. Dioscoride (MM 2.204t) also provides instructions on the use of sprouts, roots, leaves and seeds in the treatment of strangury and inflammation.


The caper was used in ancient Greece as a carminative. It is represented in archaeological levels in the form of carbonised seeds and rarely as flowerbuds and fruits from archaic and Classical antiquity contexts. Athenaeus in Deipnosophistae pays a lot of attention to the caper, as do Pliny (NH XIX, XLVIII.163) and Theophrastus.
The caper-berry is mentioned in the Bible in the book of Ecclesiastes as "avionah" according to modern interpretation of the word.


External links

caper in Belarusian: Каперсы
caper in Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa): Каперсы
caper in Catalan: Taperera
caper in Czech: Kapara trnitá
caper in Danish: Kapers
caper in German: Kaper
caper in Modern Greek (1453-): Κάππαρη
caper in Spanish: Capparis spinosa
caper in Esperanto: Kaporo
caper in Persian: کبر
caper in French: Câpre
caper in Galician: Alcaparra
caper in Italian: Capparis spinosa
caper in Hebrew: צלף קוצני
caper in Lithuanian: Kaparis
caper in Dutch: Kappertje
caper in Japanese: ケッパー
caper in Norwegian: Kapers
caper in Polish: Kapary cierniste
caper in Portuguese: Alcaparra
caper in Russian: Каперсы
caper in Slovenian: Kapra
caper in Finnish: Kapris
caper in Swedish: Kapris
caper in Ukrainian: Каперси
caper in Chinese: 續隨子

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

antic, beam, bob, bounce, burglary, capriole, caracole, carol, carry on, cavort, chirp, chirrup, clap hands, crime, curvet, cut a dido, cut capers, cut up, dance, delight, devilment, dido, disport, escapade, exult, falcade, filch, flounce, fool around, frisk, frolic, gambade, gambado, gambol, glory, glow, grab, heist, high jinks, hop, horse around, impishness, job, joy, jubilate, jump, jump about, lark, laugh, leap, lift, lilt, mischief, monkeyshine, monkeyshines, pinch, play, practical joke, prance, prank, radiate cheer, ramp, rejoice, revel, rip-off, robbery, roguery, rollick, romp, shenanigan, shenanigans, shines, sing, skip, skip for joy, smile, sparkle, sport, spring, steal, stunt, theft, tomfoolery, trick, trip, waggish trick, waggishness, whistle
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