Capers are believed to be native to the Mediterranean and Western Asia but can be found growing in parts of Africa as well.
They are the unopened buds of the caper bush and are different from caper berries, which are the fruit of the same bush. The food that we know as capers are the pickled or salt-preserved buds of the caper bush. The buds are pickled using vinegar or preserved with salt.
Capers are a genuinely ancient food and are mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh from the Sumerians, which is believed to date back to 2700 BCE.
Ancient Egyptians and Arabs used the roots of the caper bush to treat kidney and liver disease, and the Arabs used the leaves as a medicine for earaches. They use the buds to treat spleen disease.
The Ancient Greeks used capers in their food and as a medicine — they regarded it as a carminative. Capers are mentioned in the collection of Ancient Rome’s recipes called Apicius, and Dioscorides wrote about them as well. The Romans used caper flowers as a treatment for erectile dysfunction.
The name comes from the Greek word kapparis, which became the Latin capparis. The Greek word may have an Asian root or originate from the name of Cyprus’s island where capers are abundant.
Capers flavor profile
The flavor of capers is similar to a combination of mustard and black peppercorn. They don’t start with this flavor as the uncured caper is said to be bland. Only after being pickled or salt-cured do they develop their sharp flavor profile.
Health benefits of capers
Capers are not exactly the most nutritious foods available, but they do have a few health benefits. Consider the fact that you can get the following nutrients by adding them to your diet:
- Fiber: Capers are rich in dietary fiber, which has benefits for gastrointestinal and cardiovascular health.
- Vitamins: In addition to offering small amounts of vitamin C and riboflavin, capers are a decent source of vitamin K.
- Minerals: Capers can provide small amounts of iron and magnesium.
A diet containing capers may help to treat or prevent health issues like:
- Obesity: Capers add a lot of flavor to food without adding much in terms of calories. This can make it helpful if you are trying to lose weight.
- Cancer: Researchers have found that compounds in capers can help to lower the risk of cancer in people who consume diets rich in meat and fat.
- Diabetes: The high fiber content of capers may help stabilize blood sugar, which is beneficial for people with diabetes or who are at risk of developing it.
- Inflammatory diseases: Antioxidants in capers may help to reduce inflammation.
- Weak bones: The vitamin K in capers can help your bones to retain their stores of calcium.
Capers do have the potential to cause health problems, mostly because they are usually high in sodium. Because of their saltiness, they can pose a health risk if you have high blood pressure or are prone to it. Consume them in moderation to limit the danger they pose.
Traditional uses for capers include pairing them with salmon, but they can also brighten up a green salad and work well with olive oil to make a dip for bread. Capers are also used in pasta dishes or classic Italian dishes like chicken cacciatore or chicken piccata. You will also see capers used in the French Nicoise salad and Greek Salads.