י״ט באלול ה׳תשע״ב (September 6, 2012)

Berakhot 36a-b: Blessings Over Edible Parts of the Caperbush

As we learned on yesterday’s daf the sixth perek of Massekhet Berakhot focuses on the blessings recited before partaking in any kind of pleasures, and specifically on determining the specific type of blessing that is appropriate for a particular food.

The case discussed on today’s daf is the caperbush, which is described as having three separate edible parts. According to the discussion in the Gemara, over the leaves and young fronds of the caperbush, as well as over its buds, one recites: “Who creates fruit of the ground,” and over its berries, however, he recites: “Who creates fruit of the tree.” The Gemara brings this to show that even over leaves and various other parts of the tree that are secondary to the fruit, the blessing is “Who creates fruit of the ground,” and not the more general “By Whose word all things came to be.”

The most common species of caperbush in Israel is the thorny caperbush (Capparis spinosa), a thorny, deciduous bush growing to a height of a meter and a half. Its rounded leaves range in color from purple to green. There is a pair of thorns alongside each leaf. The caperbush has large white flowers, approximately 6 cm in diameter, with purple stamens.

The buds of the caper-bush, the kaprisin, from the Greek κά ππαρις, capparis, meaning caper-bush or fruit of the caper-bush, are the buds of flowers that have not yet bloomed. These buds are pickled and eaten. These buds open into new flowers on a daily basis, are then pollinated and wither on that same day.

The ripe fruit, or berries of the caper-bush, the avyona, is similar in shape to a date or small squash, and grows to 6 cm.

In the Mediterranean region, e.g., in Provence and Greece, the caper-bush is grown primarily for its pickled buds. The young fronds are apparently the caper-bush’s young, purple-green branches and their leaves, which in ancient times were pickled and eaten. They are called shuta in Aramaic.
Botanically, the fruit of the caper-bush is the berry, which is generally eaten pickled, even today.

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