Piquant bursts of slightly bitter acidity, capers light up all manner of Mediterranean meals
Capers, the tiny olive-green buds of a Mediterranean shrub, add a distinctly acidic, tangy flavour to a range of traditional dishes from that region.
Eaten preserved (usually pickled, but sometimes salted), capers are graded in size, with the smallest – called non-pareille capers – being the most prized.
Salted capers have an intense flavour and firmer texture. To use, soak in water for 15 minutes then rinse and use as directed.
For capers, the buds are picked before they open into flowers, but if left they will mature into the oval-shaped fruits known as caper berries.
With their beautiful long stems, caper berries are particularly popular in Spain and, with a flavour less intense than that of the caper itself, are delicious eaten on their own as you would an olive.
When it comes to choosing caper berries, smaller is usually better as the very large ones can have a slightly gritty texture.
Any size capers are interchangeable in recipes; but you can't substitute caper berries for capers in a recipe.