I have never known capers before coming in United States. Apparently, it was one of the healing spices from Ayurveda and is known as kabra in Hindi.
Interestingly, Capers are sold with names defining their sizes, the smaller ones are known as ‘nonpareil’ and the larger ones are ‘grusa’. There are other 4 in between but the nonpareil capers are more popular.
Capers are native to Mediterranean from Canary Islands and Morocco to Crimea and Armenia. They are grown Armenia, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Cyprus, Spain, Italy and Iran.
Caper gets its name from the Latin word capra, meaning “goat,” due to its strong smell. Caper is a dried bud of an unopened flower i.e. unripe flower of a plant named Capparis spinosa.
They can only be picked by hand as they're very small and delicate to be plucked by machine. Like saffron strands, they have to be picked individually.
Capers are olive green colored and differ in sizes but the smallest pea-sized are preferred. Capers are salty, tangy and add a saury tartness like olives to the dishes.
They’re commonly used in Mediterranean and French dishes.
Capers are loaded with phytonutrients, antioxidants, and vitamin-A, vitamin-K, niacin, and riboflavin. They have adequate amounts of minerals like calcium, iron, and copper.
Capers are found in the condiment’s aisle with their buddy olives. They are sold brined or packed in salt and vinegar.
Thus, it is advisable to rinse them thoroughly before using. This excess salt removal process reduces sodium content and allows their original flavor to pop-up.
1. Capers help maintain cholesterol levels
Capers are one of the rich sources of powerful antioxidants named rutin and quercetin. Rutin helps in steady circulation of blood by strengthening the capillaries and preventing clot formation in the blood vessels. Capers with the help of Niacin and rutin can remove LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels and maintain healthy cholesterol.
2. Capers are rich in antioxidants
As stated earlier capers are loaded with antioxidant rutin and quercetin. Studies suggest that quercetin has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory properties. Antioxidants are beneficial in preventing free radicals. Preventing growth of free radicals helps in preventing oxidation or oxidative damage. Oxidation is believed to be the major cause of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
3. Capers may help improve liver health
In Ayurvedic medicine capers are confirmed as hepatic stimulants and protectors, improving liver function. In one of the studies published in “Advanced Pharmaceutical Bulletin” researchers declared that after eating capers daily for 12 weeks, patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease showed improvement.
In the kitchen
1. Capers can be used in sauces, soups, salads and even in sandwiches.
2. They can serve as a one of the pizzas topping.
3. Capers are used in meat and fish dishes especially on the signature sauces like sauce for chicken piccata : I have included plant-based recipe here ..You can substitute chicken stock with vegetable stock and regular butter according to your preference.
Special sauce with capers:
3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup vegetable stock
3 to 4 tbsp capers, drained and washed
2 to 3 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp butter
freshly crushed black pepper
1. Add stock, capers and lemon juice to pan.
2. Keep stirring to release the bits of capers in pan.
3. Whisk in butter little at a time, until creamy.
4. Add freshly crushed black pepper.
4. Pour sauce over the chicken and bake 5-10 minutes.