In ancient times, capers were believed to have anti-rheumatic powers and were considered a healthy ingredient. The flowers of wild caper bushes are common in Mediterranean countries, and extend even to the Sahara in North Africa and the dry regions of Central Asia, where the plant is thought to have originated.
The delicate, creamy-white petals and lively purple stamen survive only a few hours. Moreover, the flowers are rarely seen in caper gardens as the caper bud must be harvested before it opens.
Capers are the unopened green flower buds of the Capparis Spinosa, a wild, cultivated bush grown mainly in Mediterranean countries, southern France, Italy and Algeria as also in California. Capers have to be gathered manually. The buds are picked every morning when they reach the right size. They are then usually sun-dried and pickled in a vinegar brine. Capers can range in size from that of a tiny peppercorn, the petite variety that comes from southern France, which is considered to be the finest, to some as large as the tip of your little finger ' these are from Italy.
Capers generally come in brine but can also be found salted and sold in bulk. Either way, rinse before using them to flush away as much salt as possible or blot dry with a paper towel. Capers lend a piquancy to many sauces and condiments and are used to garnish several dishes. Capers taste exceptionally good with seafood and pasta and go really well with salads, stews, pizza, eggs, poultry and meat.
Those on sodium-restricted diets should avoid capers. Capers packed in brine should be kept submerged in the liquid in an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator and use within nine months.
Capers packed in salt may be kept at room temperature for up to six months. But remember to store them in airtight containers. For best results, add capers at the end of the cooking process. Lengthy cooking causes capers to lose their aroma and take on a more pronounced bitter flavour.
Capers have been used for thousands of years in Mediterranean cuisine. In Italy, capers top pizzas and grace alla puttanesca tomato-based sauces. The best ones are smaller in size. Capers preserved in sea salt taste better than those stored in vinegar.
Egg salad with capers and olives
Ingredients: 4 hard-boiled eggs; 2 tbs minced red onion; 2 tbs mayonnaise; 1 tsp mustard; 2 tbs minced red bell pepper; 2 tbs diced pitted black olives; 1 tbs minced parsley; 1 tbs capers; salt and pepper to taste
Method: Finely chop the eggs and place in medium-sized bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, including salt and pepper, and mix well.
You can easily make this egg salad recipe into devilled eggs, for a convenient breakfast item. All you have to do is to cut the eggs in half lengthwise, and pop the yolks into a small bowl. Mash the yolks with the remaining ingredients, then stuff this filling back into the yolk compartment of the egg whites. Chill in a tightly covered container until serving time