Capers – how small buds became big news
Their small, round shape recalls an olive, but capers are actually the edible flower buds of the bush they grow on. We take a look about how these tiny fruits have risen to culinary celebrity.
Have you already tried our Gamberetti Piccante on the latest Specials menu? It’s a delicious pasta dish with succulent prawns, courgettes, pepperoni, semi-fried tomatoes and a delicious basil pesto sauce. And this pesto features one very special ingredient: salted capers. Find out why these small fruits are such a culinary delicacy.
What are capers and where are they from?
Capers are readily available, either pickled, in oil or in brine. But are these tiny olive-like delicacies fruits, vegetables or even seeds? The answer is none of the above. Capers are the edible flower buds of the caper bush and are actually classed as spices.
In Northern Europe, capers are a key ingredient for making “Königsberger Klopse” – a traditional Prussian speciality consisting of meat dumplings in a white sauce with capers and potatoes. In Southern Europe they’re eaten as an antipasti.
Magical caper bushes
So what do capers look like before they reach our plates? There are ten different varieties of caper bush, all with edible flower buds. To ensure the best possible flavour, once they turn an olive green or bluey-green colour the smallest closed buds are harvested.
If the buds are left to blossom, they produce delicate white flowers tinged with violet. The blooms are fleeting, opening in the morning and closing again by midday. Caper bushes are afforded magical qualities as they thrive in poor soils, on rocky cliffs or in the walls of ruins and cultural monuments. Italian folklore has it that caper bushes survive solely on sunshine and wind.
The South of France and the Aeolian Islands to the north of Sicily are key cultivation areas. The arid environment provides optimal conditions for caper bushes.
Feel you’re missing out? Why not order a dish of capers as an antipasti or check out the selection at your local supermarket? These small delicacies are well worth trying!