Thursday, June 10, 2010


Capers are the unopened flower of a perennial Mediterranean shrub called the Capparis Spinosa. The caper bush or caper berry grows wild all over the Mediterranean on stony ground and can even be found growing from cracks in stone walls.

Although the caper is thought of as a gourmet ingredient, used in gourmet dishes, it's actually a weed. Many times it's pulled out as a weed because of its ability to grow wildly without human intervention. The caper buds are harvested between May and August and are best picked in the early morning before the bud has had time to open into a flower.

Fresh Capers, before pickling:

The caper is closely related to the cabbage family and resembles several spices, like cress, black and white mustard, wasabi and horseradish. Although the caper is chemically related to these spices, without treatment the caper directly from the bush is quite bland. To develop the peppery mustard flavor desirable in many dishes, from pasta and pizza to fish and salads, the capers must be preserved in either vinegar or salt. The isothiocyanates, a phytochemical occurring naturally in cruciferous vegetables, contained in capers will react to the salt or vinegar to bring out the intense flavor of the caper. The pickling brings out the spicy and slightly sour flavor of the caper and although similar in flavor intensity to the olive, they aren't eaten straight from the jar. They are best used to compliment a dish by adding saltiness toward or at the end of cooking. Because the pickled capers are salty, very little extra salt, if any, is needed in the dish. Small capers are called nonpareils and are considered to be more valuable. The larger capers are sometimes called a salad caper and have a milder taste than their smaller counterparts.

Capers have been around for thousands of years, mentioned in the story of Gilgamesh found on ancient Sumerian clay tablets dating back to 2700 B.C., as well as by the Roman, Apicus, who is believed to have written the very first cookbook in the 1st century. Caper bushes were used by the ancient Greeks not only for cooking, but also for medicinal purposes. The capers were an ingredient in their food while the leaves and roots were used to heal one's ailments.
Capers are high in anti-oxidants and assist with healthy liver function. Recent studies show that isothiocyanates neutralize carcinogens in the body and therefore are effective in lowering the risk of several types of cancers.

A few of the recipes we've enjoyed featuring capers can be found on
Chickpea Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette by Kumquat the Cat's friend:

Simple Marinade and Rub for Fish by LifeIsGood

Pasta Puttanesca (the Madame's Pasta) by Pot Scrubber

1 comment:

  1. I love that you wrote about capers!I always have a couple of jars in my fridge and they add that special taste to to many dishes. Your photos are beautiful!


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