Did you know that capers are not the fruit, but the flower buds of the caper plant? They are harvested before they begin to open up. They are then dried, salted and pickled in vinegar. This is how they turn into a condiment with a tart and slightly bitter flavour. The smaller the capers, the more delicate their taste.
They are grown mainly in the Mediterranean region, where the climate is warm and sunny. The caper plant is a small, thorny and creeping shrub that can reach up to one meter in height, and it grows easily in the cracks of walls and rocks. If you have visited archaeological remains, walls or ancient castles in these areas between June and September, you will have probably noticed large white flowers with pinkish lilac stamens: These are the beautiful flowers of the caper plant.
Caper fruits, also known as caper berries, are oblong in shape. They are also preserved and used as food like gherkins or onions.
Try some of our recipes that are featuring capers:
Originally published in the Journal de Montréal on January 19, 2013.