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What are capers?

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Capers

© 2008 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Question: What are capers?
What do capers look and taste like?
Answer: Capers are the unripened flower buds of Capparis spinosa, a prickly, perennial plant which is native to the Mediterranean and some parts of Asia. Their use dates back to more than 1200 B.C.E. where they are mentioned as a food in the Sumerian cuneiform Gilgamesh, an ancient retelling of a great flood and ark legend.

After the buds are harvested, they are dried in the sun, then pickled in vinegar, brine, wine or salt. The curing brings out their tangy lemony flavor, much the same as green olives.

The size of the buds range from tiny (about the size of a baby petite green pea) up to the size of a small olive. The smallest variety from the South of France, called nonpareil, is the most prized and comes with an equally notable price-tag. Larger capers are stronger in flavor and less aromatic.

Much of the expense comes from labor costs since the caper buds are picked by hand. Try making your own Poor Man's Capers at home from nasturtium seeds.

Capers have long been a favorite in the Mediterranean region. The small, green herb buds lend a piquant sour and salty flavor to salads, dressings, sauces, vegetables and a variety of main dishes.

More about Capers:

What are capers?
Caper Cooking Tips and Poison Warning
Caper Recipes
Capers Photo © 2008 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.
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Quick Tips: How to Make Easy Caper Sauce

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