Late April is the time to pick them, after the rains of spring. Kapari (Capparis spinosa) grows mostly on cliffs overlooking the sea. The trick is to find a place where they haven't already been picked by someone else, or eaten by hungry goats. Goats are rather more nimble at scrambling down cliff-faces than humans, and cliffs here can crumble away as you make your way up or down.
Every now and then I'd spot a huge bush of bright green leaves halfway down an impossibly steep cliff, and think of Shakespeare's samphire-gatherers on the cliffs of Dover ('how fearful and dizzy 'tis... dreadful trade!'). After a few scratches, I played it safe. I couldn't bear to watch Stelios reaching just a teeny bit further... 'I came here to gather kapari,' he grinned, 'so I'm going to gather kapari!' Stubborn?
We came home with a few jars' worth. Then later this week, while walking the dog, I found another cache and we gathered some more. We left them in water for five days, changing the water twice a day, which removes bitterness. The smell that comes off them as you change the water is distinctive, not unpleasant. At first we soaked them in tap water, but then changed to using sea water.
Then we put them in old honey jars with a mix of brine and vinegar, and after a few days they turn a duller shade of green and are ready to eat. We tasted them yesterday and they're delicious: our own Tilos capers. Not sure how long they will last in our house...
Capers have been used in Aegean kitchens since ancient times. I read that in Santorini they're stewed with tomatoes and onions and spooned over fava or yellow split-pea puree, which sounds heavenly. And there's also a Cycladic caper salad where they're combined with potatoes, or you can eat them with fish. But now that we're picking onions, lettuce, rocket and carrots from our garden, for now this lazy cook will be putting them in the salad.
Well, it's about time to go outside and take Lisa the pup for a stroll. Walking with Lisa these days is giving me a new appreciation for the number of dead lizards to be found at the roadside - though we also have an abundance of live ones, including this fellow who graced our bathroom window.
We'll go to feed the chickens, and probably along the way we'll see some goats with their youngsters. Lisa's about the same size as a baby goat right now. The other day a few big elder goats with beards and horns gathered around and took a good look at her, before turning away, as if to say, 'Naah, not one of ours...'
Easter-flowering plant outside the Tilos Elephant Museum in Megalo Horio: smells like jasmine
This morning is a special one, as two years ago it was the first morning of my new life in Tilos. So I may have to celebrate with a swim. I will take the precaution of putting my shoes and clothes into my bag so Lisa doesn't take them away somewhere. A lovely acquaintance who visits Tilos every year wrote me a letter recently with some 'words of warning' - oh dear, I thought, what?
She had read that Lisa was friends with the floppy-eared dog from Livadia, and worried our pup might pick up some bad habits from him. Apparently on more than one occasion old Floppy Ears pinched items of clothing from people when they went for a swim, and went hurtling off down the sea front with whatever he found - for which behaviour he earned the name 'The Underpant Dog'.
For now there's no-one on our nearby beaches, but if any socks go missing this summer, well, you have been warned...