Capers are the edible flower buds of a shrub known as the caper bush(Capparis spinosa) or flinders rose plant.
The caper bush is a perennial plant and can be grown from seeds obtained from the ripe fruit.
This plant is difficult to cultivate, and therefore, capers are often harvested from the wild.
These plants can be found in Italy, turkey, Spain, and Morocco.
The flower buds are harvested before the flower blooms. They are small, dark green, and round when they are picked.
If the capers are not picked but left to mature, the green flower bud develops into pinkish-white flowers that wither shortly leaving behind the stamen which develops into fruits that are known as caper berries.
The young caper berries are also used as an ingredient and can also be found in various recipes.
Caper buds are categorized based on their different sizes into a number of varieties; the two commonly sold varieties are capote capers and nonpareil capers.
The main difference between capote capers and non-pareil capers is in their sizes, nonpareil capers which are the smaller varieties of capers are under 7mm in size while capote capers are between 9 to 11 mm in size.
This post discusses more differences between capote capers and nonpareil capers.
The smallest buds are picked from the caper bush and are packaged as non pareil capers.
Non-pareil capers are smaller than the other varieties of capers
These smaller sized non-pareil capers are the most desirable and has the best flavor and texture compared to the others
Smaller-sized flower buds have a more subdued flavor than those closer to the blooming stage. The non-pareil capers are also firmer in texture.
These buds are usually picked in the mornings as the flower opens up when the weather is hot later in the day
The flowers do not usually last for more than a day.
Capote capers are at least 2mm larger in size than non-pareil capers. Also, they have a more intense flavor than the small-sized capers.
They are between 7 mm to 11 mm and closer to blooming than non-pareil capers.
The capote capers also have a softer texture than non pareil capers.
Their flavor is not as delicate as non-pareil capers. These larger-sized capers have a strong flavor.
Other sizes of capers
Flower buds appear repeatedly after being harvested after every 10 to 12 days.
The flower buds can reach sizes of about 14 mm before they are picked
The buds are picked by hand and are sorted into different sizes before they bloom into flowers
These are the other varieties of capers and their sizes:
Surfines: 7 to 8 mm
Capucines: 8 to 9 mm
Fines: 11 to 13 mm
Grusas: 14 mm and above
Canned capers are high in sodium as a result of the salt used during brining.
Brining preserves capers and gives them a longer shelf life.
They contain several nutrients but since capers are used in small amounts, they only supply a very small portion of these nutrients which is not significant.
Capers are also low in calories
However, Capers are high in vitamin K and sodium even in the small amounts that may be used.
Capers also contain polyphenols such as anthocyanin.
Uses of capers
Capers are first salted or pickled before being used as they have a bitter taste when they are raw.
The salted capers have a briny taste.
You might find pickled capers packaged in jars in grocery stores.
Capers are used especially in Mediterranean cuisine where they are used to garnish a variety of dishes where they bring a flavor that is similar to green olives to these dishes.
Capers are versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes where they can add their briny flavor to.