Capers & Caperberries
Caper buds [Capparis spinosa, also C. sicula, C. orientalis, and C. aegyptia. Australian "wild passionfruit" Capparis spinosa subspecies nummularia all of genus Capparaceae]

Caper bushes are found all around the Mediterranean region, but are also found in Madagascar, Central Asia, the Himalayas and in the Pacific Islands. Where they originated is unknown.

Capers are most known to Americans as pickled flower buds used as a flavoring element and garnish in salads, sauces and martinis. In the Mediterranean region where they are native, fruits are also pickled, as well as the leaves The photo specimens of pickled flower buds came from two bottles, both qualifying for the top "Non-pareilles" designation, though the large ones barely squeaked by at the 7 mm / 0.276 inch maximum. The small ones were typically 4 mm or less. Connoisseurs insist salted caper buds are superior to pickled, but those are costly and very difficult to find in North America.

More on Brassicales.

Capers are graded by size with the smaller considered more desirable. Sizes are:

  • Non-pareil (up to 7 mm)
  • Surfines (7-8 mm)
  • Capucines (8-9 mm)
  • Capotes (9-11 mm)
  • Fines (11-13 mm)
  • Grusas (14+ mm)

Nasturtium buds are sometimes substituted for capers, having a similar taste. They are usually in the larger sizes.

Fruit & Leaves
Pickled Fruit Caper fruits (caperberries) grow to about 2-3/4 inches long when ripe, but they are usually picked immature at about 1 inch and pickled. At this young stage the seeds are soft and edible. The berries are served as appetizers and in salads, particularly in Spain and Greece. Some are salted, rather than pickled, as the buds sometimes are, and are said to be superior that way, but salted caperberries are very scarce and costly in North America. The pickled specimens in the photo were up to 1.1 inches long and 0.78 inch diameter, weighing an average of 0.16 ounce (4.8 grams) each. From Spain: Caperberries, water, salt, vinegar.

Leaves are thick and succulent. They are also pickled, and are sometimes cooked for use in salads. These usages are local, and not exported. Caper leaves are also used in place of rennet in coagulating some cheeses.

Caper Flower Ripe Fruit Neither flowers nor ripe fruit are much eaten (though perhaps flowers are used as edible decorations on salads). These photos are provided to illustrate the edible leaves, and because they were available from earlier versions of this page. Caperberries split open when ripe, exposing white flesh and black seeds.   Photo of flower by Lorsh contributed to the public domain. Photo of over-ripe fruit by Florian Prischl / Wikimedia Commons - distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 - attribution required, notification requested.

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