Home-Grown and Organic, Capers Get A Desi Tag

Ishka Farms

Kochi: It was sometime back in Taj West End, Bengaluru’s menu of sandwiches (Salmon Bagel) that I came across capers first. After that, I have never missed an opportunity to relish this salty, pea-sized dark green ingredient that transforms ordinary food into unbelievably tastier ones. Search for capers on the net, and you will find that they are the edible flower buds of caper bush (Capparis spinosa), which grows in Mediterranean regions. But it is no longer a ‘foreign guest’ as it is grown in abundance at Ishka Farms in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu.

Entrepreneurs Srikant Suryanarayan and Fiona Arakkal are the brain behind bringing capers to India, cultivating them at Ishka Farms in Tamil Nadu

Kochi-based entrepreneurs Srikant Suryanarayan and spouse Fiona Arakkal are the brain behind bringing capers to India. “We were in search of a crop that could be harvested right through the year and that was different from what everyone was growing in India. It took lot of effort to bring the plant here. We even had to get the law amended to import caper plant,” Srikant recalls the initial days of Ishka Farms.

It was after Srikant met Pablo Rico Sebastian, an agricultural entrepreneur from Argentina, at the G20 in Moscow in 2012 that he arrived at a decision to consider raising capers as a commercial crop. Srikant then extensively travelled through Baja, (California) Mexico, Santiago del Estero (Argentina), Pantalleria, Italy and Adelaide, Australia before deciding to go ahead with hardy capers as their crop of choice. “Our farm is the first organised commercial farm in India growing capers,” says a proud Srikant.

From the bud stage to the final product, capers are carefully nurtured under the supervision of experts at the farm. They are then bottled to preserve the rich, aromatic flavour. “Organic is a state of mind for us. India has stringent NPOP norms compared to other nations. That simply shows how bad our farmers are,” says Srikant. At Ishka Farms, Srikant is taking all possible steps to actively participate in conserving the environment. They have recently installed solar-powered water pumps to achieve energy stability and reduce carbon emission.

“The farm, which is close to 400 acres, also has a Moringa oleifera, (the Drumstick tree) plantation. We take 8-12 harvests of moringa and close to 40-45 harvest of capers every year,” informs Srikant. The capers are cultivated in an area of 100 acres at the farm. Ishka grows moringa only for its leaves. The leaves are handpicked, cleaned, shade-dried and packed at the farm itself so as to prevent any loss of nutrition. Capers are graded based on their size; the smaller the size, the higher the grade. Ishka Farms brings to the table six different products and two combo packs.