Capers are the pickled buds of the caper plant, a wild bush native to the Mediterranean area, where they often appear in the native cuisine. Caper berries are slighter larger, the mature fruit of the plant. The plants grow best in dry heat and hot sunlight, and usually are found in rocky areas near the ocean. This terrain seems to make its way into the taste of pickled capers; they're sour, savory and salty, with a tiny rush of pungent brine inside.
Capers are available year-round, but something about early spring makes us crave them. Maybe it's their tiny green shapes; maybe it's the taste of salt and the ocean; maybe it's how they go so well with fish and spring produce.
Capers are very time-consuming to grow and harvest. After harvesting they are usually salted to remove their initial bitterness and cure them into full flavor. This develops a brine, which is how you often find them bottled. Avoid capers bottled in vinegar; this dilutes their flavor.
Capers are traditionally paired with salmon, like in this Salmon with Arugula, Tomato and Caper Sauce, or these Smoked Salmon Sandwiches with Capers and Red Onion Relish.
We like to put them in eggs - slow-scrambled weekend eggs with garlic and capers are a special treat. We also dumped half a jar in leftovers from our Creamy Braised Cauliflower recipe from last week, and wish we had put them in to begin with; they put that recipe over the top.
And of course you can never go wrong with fried capers - a perfect garnish for salads and fish.
What's your favorite thing to do with capers?