Caper (Capparis spinosa)

Caper (Capparis spinosaa) is a deciduous, perennial spiny bush, and also refers to the pickled bud of the plant. Capparis spinosa is native to the Mediterranean region, and best known for the edible bud and fruit (caper berry) which are usually consumed pickled.

Caper is a shrubby plant with many branches, and can be grown easily from fresh seeds. The leaves are alternate, thick and shiny, and round to ovate in shape. The sweetly-fragrant flowers are complete, showy, with four sepals, and four white to pinkish-white petals, and many long violet-colored stamens, and a single stigma usually rising well above the stamens.

When the buds turn dark olive green, and about the size of a corn kernel, they are ready to be picked. They are then pickled in salt, or a salt and vinegar solution, or drained. An intense flavor is developed as mustard oil (glucocapparin) is released from each caper bud. This reaction also leads to the formation of rutin often seen as crystallized white spots on the surfaces of individual caper buds. If the caper bud is not picked, it flowers and produces a fruit called a caperberry.

The Greeks also pick caper's leaves, as the leaves are excellent in salads and in fish dishes. Dried caper leaves are also used as a substitute for rennet in the manufacturing of high quality cheese.

The salted and pickled caper bud (also called caper) is often used as a garnish or a seasoning. It is a common ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine, especially Italian and Cypriot. The mature fruits are also salted and pickled and marketed as caper berries.

Capers is an important ingredient in Italian cuisine, commonly used in salads, pasta salads, pizzas, meat dishes and pasta sauces. Caper is also one of the main ingredients in tartar sauce, often served with cold smoked salmon or cured salmon. It is sometimes a substitute for olives to garnish a martini.

Capers are categorized and sold by their sizes, with the smallest sizes being the most desirable: Non-pareil (up to 7 mm), surfines (78 mm), capucines (89 mm), capotes (911 mm), fines (1113 mm), and grusas (14+ mm).

Capparis spinosaCapparis spinosa
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Capparis spinosaCapparis spinosa
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Pickled capersPickled capers
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Flower and buds of Capparis spinosaFlower and buds of Capparis spinosa
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Salted capersSalted capers
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Pickled caperberriesPickled caperberries
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