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All About Capers | Know Your Spice Caper (Capparis spinosa)

Capers | Mullukattari | Flinders Rose | Caper Bush (Capparis spinosa)

All About Capers | Know Your Spice Kapari, Mullukattari or Caper (Capparis spinosa)

Caper is also known as Kabra, Mullukattari, Cappero, Caperberry, Alcaparra, Kapari

Benefits of Capers – Capparis spinosa provides flavour, aroma and saltiness to pasta sauces, pizza, fish, meats and salads.

The flower buds, semi mature fruits & young shoots with small leaves are pickled for use as a spice.

Amongst health benefits of capers is its notable ability to reduce flatulence and being antirheumatic.

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What exactly is a caper?

Some common names of capers are Caper Bush, Caperberry, Cappero, Lussef, Tapana and Flinders rose

Capers are the immature flower buds of the Capparis shrub that grows in the Mediterranean region. They’re handpicked and that makes them fairly pricey.

But they are a versatile kitchen ingredient that’s ideal for adding a distinctive sour/salty flavour to many savoury dishes.

Botanically, capers come from small shrubs, reaching 1 meter in height. The leaf stipules of the shrub transform into spines and bear flowers on first year branches.

The flowers are white with long conspicuum tassels of purple stamens. The flowers open in the morning and close by sunset.

For Capparis spinosa to grow correctly, it requires a hot and arid climate.

While the caper bush usually grows in countries like Italy, Morocco, Spain and Turkey, it is capable of thriving anywhere with the right environment.

The best caper are said to come from Pantelleria, a tiny island off the coast of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea where the plant is spread out wildy all over the island.

What is the nutrition value of capers?

Know the nutritional value of Mullukattari or Flinders rose.

Caper is very low in calories; provide just 23 calories per 100 g. Nonetheless, this spice contains many phytonutrients, antioxidants, and vitamins essential for optimum health.

Capparis spinosa are one of the highest plant sources of flavonoid compounds rutin (or rutoside) and quercetin. Both of these compounds work as powerful antioxidants.

Research studies suggest that quercetin has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory properties.

What is the chemical composition of capers?

Know and understand about chemical composition of mullukattari

Capparis spinosa is very low in cholesterol & a good source of Protein and dietary fibre. Caper composition includes vitamins A, E (alpha tocopherol), C & K.

Capparis spinosa also contain niacin, calcium, manganese, riboflavin, folate, iron, magnesium and copper.

Caper is one of the highest plant sources of flavonoid compounds rutin (or rutoside) and quercetin. Both of these compounds work as powerful antioxidants.

However, since pickled caper are extremely high in sodium, they should be consumed in moderation.

What is the history of Capers?

Know more about the origins & the story behind Capers or Mullukattari or Flinders Rose

Capparis spinosa probably originated from the arid regions in western and central Asia since they have been used there for thousands of years.

The word Capparis spinosa comes from the latin capparis which was borrowed from the Greek word  kápparis that was probably linked to the island of Cyprus where caper thrives.

There’s mention of them in the Gilgamesh, possibly the oldest written story documented and found on ancient Sumerian clay tablets dating back to c. 2700 B.C.

Apicius also mentioned them as did Dioscorides, a surgeon in Nero’s army who confirmed that they were initially used by the ancient Greeks.

Ancient Greeks knew the caper, and the renowned Phryne, at the first period of her residence in Athens, was a dealer in capers.

Greeks not only used Capers as an ingredient in cooking but also used the roots and leaves of the plant for medicinal purposes.

The Greeks of the Crimea still eat caper sprouts, which resemble those of the asparagus, as well as the bud, shoot, and, in short, every edible part of the caper shrub.

About 1755 Henry Laurens imported caper into South Carolina. They were also raised successfully for two years in Louisiana before 1854, but the plants perished from frost.

What are the different types of Capers?

Learn about the different types of capers

Every spring, flower buds appear on the capparis spinosa plant ready to bloom into flowers. If the buds are picked at this stage, they are called capers, and they are quite small in size.

The buds if not picked bloom into flowers. After the flowers die a larger green caper appears where the flower was – these are called ‘caper berries’.

Caper berries are closer to olives in overall shape. Both capers and caper berries have a similar nutrition profile and taste, and the only real difference is their respective size.

Capers are categorised and sold by their size with the smallest capers the most sought after

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

What do capers taste like?

What is the the taste of Capers?

Raw Caper buds have a neutral flavour and hence need to be processed in a pickling medium to develop their unique piquant, tangy flavour.

When the buds are ready to pick, they are dark green and about the same size as a corn kernel. They are then picked, salted or preserved in brine.

After the pickling process the flavour intensifies since mustard oil (glucocapparin) is released from each caper bud.

This enzymatic reaction also leads to the formation of rutin often seen as crystallized white spots on the surfaces of individual caper buds. 

Once prepared the capers take on a salty, piquant, flavourful, slightly sour and slightly sweet taste.

Caper taste can be described as lemony, olivey, and salty. Much of the briny, vinegary taste comes from packaging in a salt-vinegar brine.

Finally, capers do have a whole range of different flavours mixing together, which is why they are so popular for flavouring food.


Caper bush flower | capers


What are the uses of Capers?

Know more about how Caper or Flinders Rose is used.

The flower buds, semi mature fruits and young shoots with small leaves are pickled for use as a spice. It gives flavour, aroma and saltiness to pasta sauces, pizza, fish, meats and salads.

Medically Caper reduces flatulence and anti-rheumatic. It helps to improve liver function and used against arteriosclerosis, as diuretic, vermifuges and tonics.

Capers have antioxidant properties. Caper extracts and pulp are also used in cosmetics.

Why are capers expensive?

Learn about what makes capers so pricey

Handpicking of Capers (Capparis spinosa)

Capers are expensive predominantly since they are hand picked from thorny bushes of the caper shrub.

The timing is crucial for caper picking; the flower buds need to be picked just before they start to open.

As the bush also contains many thorns, this labor-intensive process is time-consuming and why capers are relatively expensive per gram.

Soaking of Capers

After picking, the capers need to soak in water for a day or two. This soaking process helps to lessen their bitter flavor.

Curing & Pickling of Capers

Once the capers finish soaking, they have to undergo a curing process.

The first option is to salt-cure the capers, which involves covering them in salt. This method involves packing the capers in salt, ensuring that they are fully covered.

After about one week, the salt can be rinsed away, and the capers will be ready to eat.

An alternate method is to pickle the capers in a brine solution that contains salt and vinegar. They should be ready to eat after around one week, but they will taste better after several weeks.

How long does Caper or Mullukattari last?

Learn about how long do Capers or Mullukattari last in storage.

Capers can last a few years beyond a “best by” date if kept properly sealed. Capers are unripe flower buds which are preserved in a brine to bring out their tangy lemon flavor. They are mostly sold in jars.

The pickling process of Capers usually involves vinegar which is very acidic and creates an extremely hostile environment for the growth of bacteria, thus extending their shelf life for a long time.

How do I store Capers?

Learn about how to store capers.

Store capers in a cool, dark place. Once you open a jar of capers, store it in the fridge and make sure they keep below the level of whatever they were pickled in.

Grouper Fish Curry with Tomatoes & Capers
Did you know: Capers are sometimes confused with the brined and dried fish called anchovies, since both are harvested from the same regions and are processed similarly.

Grouper fish curry with tomatoes & capers


What can I use Capers for?

Learn how to use Kapari or Caper in your food & beverages.
  • The caper berries are served with beer as tapas in bars in Spain.
  • A number of Italian, French and Greek recipes call for Capers but they are not often found in American dishes.
  • Place capers in a small strainer and rinse them under running water before adding them to sauces or meats.
  • Capers are a favorite addition to fish sauces and marinades, along with brined and dried anchovies.
  • Remember most recipes call for the small caper buds, not the larger and less salty berries. Caper berries are sometimes marketed as capers, but the two should not be confused.
  • They’re perfect for topping for fish, chicken or meat, and you can also use capers in a sauce, salad or on pizza.
  • You can try a caper tapenade or pesto to serve on a crostini.
  • Serve caper berries mixed with other brined and pickled vegetables on an antipasti platter.
  • Some examples of how to use caper buds:
    1. In a sauce, over chicken or fish;
    2. In a seafood soup or stew;
    3. In a salad dressing;
    4. In a vegetable tartare;
    5. In Pasta Puttanesca or Pasta Salad;
    6. In potato salad or chicken salad;
    7. In Chicken Piccata;
    8. On eggs Benedict or scrambled eggs.

Is there a substitute for Capers?

Learn how to use a substitute for Caper if unavailable

Green olives: Caper has a taste similar to olives, so green olive is an effective substitute when you don’t have any caper at hand.

Thyme: Thyme’s strong flavor makes it a great substitute for caper.

Pickled artichoke hearts: If you get halfway through your chicken salad recipe and realize you’re out of capers, pickled artichoke hearts may be a good substitute.

Pickled nasturtium seeds: If you have access to them, pickled nasturtium seeds work as well; the nickname is “poor man’s caper.”

Where do I buy Capers from?

Where to Locate Capers in the Grocery Stores?

Capers are well available in well-stocked grocery stores, supermarkets, and natural food stores You’ll find them usually down the condiment aisle near pickles and olives.

Caper stock may also be placed in the International aisle near Italian products.

They are also easily found in specialty and gourmet food stores as well as online. Capers are typically packaged in small jars, no more than four ounces, in a vinegar brine.

What are the health benefits of Capers or Mullukattari?

Learn about health benefits of Caper or Capparis spinosa

Health benefits of Capers or benefits of Caper

Different parts of the Flinders Rose plant are recommended for treating different conditions:

Here are some notable Health Benefits of Capers;

  • Health Benefits of Kapari against Cancer – When combined with poultry or red meat, capers may help limit the creation of harmful byproducts that have been linked to cell damage and an increased risk of cancer.
  • Health Benefits of Caper against Alzheimer’s – People who regularly consume flavonoids such as quercetin are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s.
  • Health Benefits of Mullukattari as an Antioxidant – Flavonoid compounds in Caper including rutin and quercetin compounds are potent sources of antioxidants. Antioxidants are known to prevent free radical, which can cause cancer and skin related diseases.
  • Health Benefits of Caper as a Source of Vitamins – Caper or Kapari (in Turkish) are storehouses of vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin K, niacin, and riboflavin.
  • Health Benefits of Caper against Rheumatism – Capers have been used as a treatment for rheumatic pain in ancient Greece.
  • Health Benefits of Capers for Flatulence – Caper relieves stomach ache and flatulence. In addition, these spicy buds are eaten for improving appetite.
  • Health Benefits of Kapari against Diabetes – Capers help to keep diabetes in check. Capers contain chemicals that keep blood sugar in check.
  • Health Benefits of Caper as an Antiinflammatory – In arthritic rats, a Chinese medicine based on capers reduced the production of two inflammatory proteins (TNF-alpha and IL-1beta) and the blood levels of Th17 cells.
  • Health Benefits of Flinders Rose as Immunity Booster – A caper bud extract rich in flavonoids inhibited the genital herpes virus by stimulating Th1 cells to mount an immune response (via IL-12, IFN-gamma, and TNF-alpha).
  • Health Benefits of Caper against Liver Damage – In a clinical trial on 44 people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, 40 – 50 g of caper berries per day for 12 weeks reduced disease severity and the levels of two important markers of liver damage.
  • Health Benefits of Capers against Allergies – In a clinical trial on 8 healthy people, 100 mg of a gel with 2% caper bud extract prevented the skin inflammation triggered by histamine.
Capers | Mullukattari | Flinders Rose | Caper Bush (Capparis spinosa)
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Capers | Pickled Capers | Make Pickled Capers at Home

Capers | Pickled Capers | Make Pickled Capers at Home - The pickled capers we most commonly eat are flower buds, picked in the morning, before they have time to open. If left to flower, the caper will produce a droplet-shaped berry, which can also be pickled. 
Course Condiment, Spices
Cuisine World
Diet Diabetic, Vegan, Vegetarian
Keyword Caper Berries, Capers, Homemade Pickled Capers, Homemade Pickled Capers Recipes, Pickled Capers, Pickled Capers Recipe
Prep Time 3 days
Soaking Time 3 days
Total Time 6 days
Servings 10 people
Calories 23kcal
Author Sumit Malhotra

Ingredients

  • 100 grams Fresh caper buds
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Instructions

  • Rinse the capers, and discard any with worm holes.
  • Let the capers soak in water.
  • Rinse and replace the water once a day for three days.
  • Prepare the brine mixture of vinegar, water and salt in a jar, and add the capers.
  • Let capers sit in the jar for another three days to let them mellow down.
  • The capers and will then be ready to eat, but also can be left to sit for a longer period of time.
  • Once pickled, store the jar of capers and brine in your refrigerator.

Notes

  • You could also add spices and herbs to the pickling brine too, like bay leaves and peppercorns.
  • If pickling the fruit, make enough brine, the same way as above, to cover the fruit generously. Proceed as above, but start tasting only after a week.
  • Don’t be alarmed if little white spots appear on your product. This is a natural enzymatic reaction. This enzymatic reaction leads to the formation of rutin often seen as crystallized white spots on the surfaces of individual caper buds.

Tools & Equipment Used For This Recipe

The links below the image lead to product links on Amazon.in & Amazon.com respectively

Apple Cider Vinegar

500 ml Wide Mouth Glass Mason Jars

FInally! To Sum It Up

All About Capers (Capparis spinosa) | Benefits of Capers

Spice card capers (capparis spinosa)

Capers are the immature flower buds of the Capparis shrub that grows in the Mediterranean region. They’re handpicked and that makes them fairly pricey.

But they are a versatile kitchen ingredient that’s ideal for adding a distinctive sour/salty flavour to many savoury dishes.

Botanically, capers come from small shrubs, reaching 1 meter in height. The leaf stipules of the Capparis spinosa shrub transform into spines and bear flowers on first year branches.

The flowers are white with long conspicuum tassels of purple stamens. The flowers open in the morning and close by sunset.

For Capparis spinosa to grow correctly, it requires a hot and arid climate.

While the caper bush usually grows in countries like Italy, Morocco, Spain and Turkey, it is capable of thriving anywhere with the right environment.

The best caper are said to come from Pantelleria, a tiny island off the coast of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea where the plant is spread out wildy all over the island.

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