Salty, pungent, and puckery with a dense and interesting mouthfeel, capers add an extra dimension to culinary endeavors.
Capers are actually the flower bud of the caper bush. If the buds are allowed to flower they continue to mature past the flowering stage and into a caper berry which is slightly larger than the caper bud. Both the berry and the bud, which is usually the one that is called simply a caper, are typically eaten pickled. The origination of the caper bush is uncertain but it can be found in semi dry climates around the world. It seems to be a very adaptable plant and quickly adapts to variations within its environment. Capers are a popular ingredient in cultural cuisines found in semi arid and arid climates. It is a main feature in many Italian, Greek and Middle Eastern dishes.
From a culinary perspective, capers can be an interesting addition to salads and small plates. They can basically be used in any recipe that features pickles. They are a distinct addition to dishes like Chicken Piccata, Puttanesca, Lentil salad and Nicoise salads.
From a health perspective, capers are a great source of micro and phytonutrients. Nutrients like quercetin, selenium, rutin, zeaxanthine, quercetin, kaempferol, astragalin, the list goes on. All that nutrient density makes them have a significant beneficial impact for your health. Research shows that consuming capers, both the bud and the berry, can help decrease cardiovascular issues, including heart disease, increase bone density, boost immune function, decrease oxidative stress, and decrease the risk of various cancers...namely prostate and lung (as far as studies are concerned). Traditional medicine from various cultures highlights the use of caper buds and leaves for things like gut inflammation, rheumatism, and digestive disorders.