Monday, June 16, 2008

a common caper

The first time I ever saw these flowers was when we moved into the house we live in now. They grow wild in a couple places against the walls of the house, and along the driveway. They have vicious, curved thorns like tiny cat's claws, that grab on to your clothes and skin if you brush too close to them. The thorns are so sharp they will even go through a leather glove. But the plant it self is beautiful, with purple stems and neat green leaves. The flowers are spectacular. My husband and in-laws were always asking me why I didn't cut them down, but most of the time I let them grow because they are so beautiful. And because every time I did try to cut them down I got stabbed a few times. There is one bush that is so big that it practically takes over one section of the walkway at the back of our house, so I have to cut it down occasionally so that people can get past it without getting snagged. Last fall, after I cut it back and got a few thorns in my hands, I decided to kill that one. Fat chance! I poured a couple tea pots full of boiling water into the crack where it's roots grow between the house and the sidewalk. This spring it came back as if nothing had happened! They are tough plants. No matter how many times I cut them to the ground, they just come back. And they seem to only grow next to rocks. I don't think I have ever seen one growing in open soil, they are always up against or between rocks and walls. There is even one growing out of a wall beside my front door. I think it has its roots into the well that is under the front veranda. I have been trying to get rid of that thing for nearly 10 years. A few months ago I downloaded the PDF version of The Subjective Atlas of Palestine, and finally learned its name. It is called a Common Caper! This is the plant whose buds are pickled and sold in jars. I have never had capers before. You can read all about them on Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages or this page. And if you like to cook, especially if you sometimes learn recipes with the names in languages other than English, you should check out Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages and bookmark it. He has a page for every herb or spice I have ever heard of plus lots I never heard of, and each one has a detailed description, pictures of the plant and the name in many languages. And you can search according to a phonetic spelling of the Arabic name.

10 comments:

Umm Ibrahim said...

Assalaamu alaikum,

What a beautiful flower masha'Allah! I never even considered where capers come from - I amazed that that is the flower from the same plant though!

alajnabiya said...

wa 'alaikum assalaam,

I am amazed that someone would pick all the little buds and miss the pretty flowers!

Sebaha said...

Assalaamu alaikum,

insha'allah you and your family are fine.

Like you I am absolutely into weeds.
When I lived in Palestine the people around me, and specially my in-laws, were always surprised when I was glad about wonderful flowers which they did not see, because it was only a weed...

The same thing when I was again on a rescue for some Insects...

I think, that the plant can be a metaphor for Palestine and his people. As you wrote: "They are tough plants. No matter how many times I cut them to the ground, they just come back. And they seem to only grow next to rocks.
I don't think I have ever seen one growing in open soil, they are always up against or between rocks and walls..."

And these wonderful blossoms let forget the thorns fast and if a little bit fights so strongly, for the place where it lives , I feel admiration...

From where did you get the PDFversion of subjective Atlas of Palestine? I tried to buy the book here in Germany but was not successful. Thought even about making a trip to the Netherlands just to purchase the book...

salaam, sebaha

alajnabiya said...

I believe this is the link for the PDF download. It is 16mb. I would love to see a hard copy of the book, but I quite enjoyed looking at it as a PDF.

I love your metaphor for Palestinians. I always thought of them as water, the way they always find a way through, around, under or over the obstacles in life.

So you are another wildflower lover. My in-laws also think my passion for weeds is a bit odd, as do the people in the village, who are mostly from farming families and just see the weeds as something that needs to be removed to allow the crops to grow. But I often hear my husband and his family talking about which ones they used to gather each spring to eat or use as medicine. There are some wild plants that are still gathered from the hills to be sold in the vegetable market.

Your comment about rescuing insects reminded me of an incident with my husband a few years ago. We walked out the back door one day while the kids were in school, and saw a very large leaf like mantis on the wall near the door. I pointed it out to my husband, and started looking around for something to catch it in to keep it to show my sons when they got home from school. My husband saw me looking around, and said, "I'll do it," and he picked up his babooj (sandal) and SPLAT, he killed it!

Sebaha said...

Shukran iktir yaCarol,

I did not know, that there is the possibility to download the Subjective Atlas of Palestine and I am so glad to have it now on my screen. It is such a wonderful book, giving the people the chance for a new view on Palestine.

I love the opportunities which the Internet opens for us.
There I find out that in the country I love, but in which I cannot live at the moment, however, an American lives who shares with me, a German, the predilection for weed...

I am grateful for the chance to be allowed to get to know someone like you, although we are living many miles away from each other, and probably would not have met even if I already lived in Jenin.

Alhamdullilah Allah has his own way to connect people!

It seems that we, the foreigners who live in Palestine, are often doing strange things in the eyes of the natives...

I made my whole in-laws scream when I tried to safe a Centipede from being poisoned through the hand of my mother in law and one of the famous Insecticides (which every good housewife always has in stock...)

Okay, the "cute" crawler might be poisoning and it hurts badly when it bites but can't it die outside the house, when it is old and lived a happy live??
Specially the women in the family don't really share my opinion that spiders and snakes are interesting and useful animals...

But my mother in law is into herbs and she often uses them as medicine. She always tries first to find something naturally before she asks the Pharmacist or doctor.

I like the metaphor you have for the Palestinians. Water is such a strong picture. It is essential and one of the biggest nature powers, it satisfies our thirst and makes the world around us bloom.

And you also do this. Through your wonderful blog we share the beautiful flowers and blossoms with you. Thank you so much!

Salaam, Sebaha

PS: I hope, one can understand my English and it is not too confusing...

alajnabiya said...

Assalaamu 'alaikum, and thanks for the kind words Sebaha. I really admire the fact that you are so fluent in English that you can enjoy reading blogs and commenting in English. I always feel dumb when I realize that so many people learn multiple languages and I still haven't gotten a good working knowledge of Arabic. All my kids are bilingual and my husband is trilingual. However, I would recommend that you don't go around saying someone has a "predilection for weed," since "weed" (singular) is American slang for marijuana. LOL.

While I agree that spiders and snakes are interesting creatures when they are outside, I don't blame you mother-in-law for killing the centipede, if it is one of those red "abu arba'een" things. If you try to get it out side you might get hurt, and you have to worry that it will get one of the kids playing outside if you throw it in the garden. Same goes for scorpions. I got stung by one of those a few years back, I never saw which kind it was, but that wasn't pleasant. And they gave me a ton of antihistamines that made me sleep for three days.

Sebaha said...

Salaam Carol,

thank you for reminding me to be careful with spelling my words.
I had to laugh when I realized what I actually wrote.

I have to admit that I even knew the "slang-meaning" but was so in a rush commenting and publishing, that I just "over read" the missing s...

It is another lesson in Patience and concentration, which I have to learn. ;-)

Also I don't blame my mother-in-law for protecting the family from the attack of the red "abu arba'een", I learned that lesson too. Not everything around me is good for me...

I do not think,that someone who lives in a country which is not the country of her origin and in a cultur which is different to the one in which she grew up should feel dumb.
You need so many skills in your daily life which are admirable: raising a bunch of children, getting used to the "palestinian way of life", living under the occupation etc. - not the easiest things to do.
And reading your blog, it seems to me that you are doing a great job, masha'Allah!

Allah maaki,
Sebaha

alajnabiya said...

Thanks ukhti, but it would be a lot easier if I could only communicate well in Arabic!

UmmFarouq said...

Hey I just scooped up a centipede with my shoe the other day and put it out in the yard. Trying to teach the kids not to Kill and Destroy Living Things is easier said than done. I draw the line at scorpions, however, as I should.

Love the wild flowers! Hey do you have any wild flowers that resemble clocks? They grow here in Jordan but only in a few places; they have little hands that look like clocks on them. Think I'll go on a walk today w/ my camera and look for them. We have to stop and smell the weeds, don't we?

Also sis in law abruptly left yesterday a.m. The cheese was in my freezer and I did not have a chance to get it to her. But we are coming this summer, inshaAllah.

alajnabiya said...

I would love to see the flower that looks like a clock. I have never seen it.

As for the cheese, I still think it was too much to ask her, but thanks for the thought. InshaAllah we will meet this summer.