Capers are pickles made from the unopened flower buds of the capparis spinosa shrub , which grows in the Mediterranean. In France, Italy and Spain, shrubs are grown for capers. Roquevaire, in Provence, is known as the “caper capital”.
Capers are never used fresh and are preserved in two ways: in brine, sometimes with the addition of vinegar or in salt. Most often, flower buds are soaked in salt water, then packed in brine or a mixture of brine and vinegar. This is how capers are sold in most supermarkets. The other option is salt curing. This type of caper costs more and is only available in specialized markets.
Capers also vary in size – increasing in size and decreasing in value. Like saffron, capers are harvested by hand, which makes their price very high. But fortunately its strong flavor means that many capers are not needed to make a dish.
In addition to the flower bud, caper berries are also eaten , which are the unripened fruits of the plant. They look like giant capers, because they are also preserved and have a dark green color. Caper berries are widely used to decorate alcoholic drinks.
Caper berries – the unripened fruits of the plant
Where to use capers?
Pickled capers are widely used both as a seasoning and to decorate dishes. It is very common in several Mediterranean recipes.
It goes well in tomato sauce and accompanying meats (including raw).
Usually accompanies roasted and grilled fish.
Tartar sauce, made with capers, is often served with smoked salmon.
CLASSIC RECIPES THAT TAKE CAPPERS
Spaghetti alla putanesca (Italy)
Carpaccio (but the original Italian carpaccio has no capers)
Read our article on carpaccio
It is served on steak tartare, along with onions and a raw egg.
HOW TO BUY AND USE CAPTURES?
Capers are usually purchased canned, as pictured below.
The smallest capers are the most sought after, and therefore most expensive. Larger capers are very powerful to eat whole and must be chopped. In addition to adding an extra step, chopped capers disintegrate when added to sauces.
Many sources suggest washing salted capers to remove excess salt. This may not be necessary. Drain the capers well and try one. If they look too salty or have a strong vinegar flavor, you can rinse them off. In most cases, this step will not be necessary.
Can I plant capers at home?
Yes. The caper is a shrub that reaches half a meter in height, so take this into account. It can be grown in pots.
The plant needs a lot of sunlight. It withstands very high temperatures, up to 40 degrees. It needs water, but the soil must not be moist. The ideal is a calcareous soil.
Remember that the harvest has to be done well before flowering. If it blooms, wait until the plant bears fruit. Fruits can also be preserved and eaten.
The caper flowers are very beautiful. This video gives an idea (using time lapse) of what happens to the caper if it is not harvested from the bulb.
Health benefits and risks in the consumption of capers
People use capers for diabetes , yeast infections , chest congestion , worms in the intestines and a skin disease caused by parasites called leishmaniasis . Capers are also used as a tonic .
Some people apply capers directly to their skin for dry skin and other skin conditions and to improve blood flow near the skin’s surface.
Capers contain chemicals that can help control blood sugar . Capers can also have antioxidant activity .
There are no studies with sufficient evidence to prove the effectiveness in the following applications:
- Fungal infections
ç. Chest congestion
- Intestinal worms
- Skin disorders, when applied directly
- Improve blood flow close to the skin surface when applied directly
- Dry skin when applied directly
More evidence is needed to assess the effectiveness of capers for these uses. So be careful what you read on websites that recommend capers to cure or prevent the above diseases.
Diabetes : There is some concern that capers may alter blood sugar control in people with diabetes. Monitor your blood sugar closely if you have diabetes and use capers.
Surgery : capers can affect blood sugar levels. There is some concern that capers may interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. Stop using capers at least 2 weeks before scheduled surgery.
Eating capers significantly increases your sodium intake , so salt-sensitive people should avoid eating too many capers. Just one tablespoon of the buds contains 238 milligrams of sodium, or 16% of adequate daily sodium intake . Eating foods high in salt increases blood pressure and a high salt diet can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease