These small green buds are the flower buds of a low-growing bush, Capparis spinosa, that grows all over the Mediterranean. Capers are preserved in wine vinegar or brine. New buds develop every day and the plants have to be checked daily to ensure the maximum harvest. They have a tangy, bitter flavour which only develops on preservation. Fresh capers are not used.
There are several varieties of capers available - the tiny nonpareille capers in brine can be added whole to recipes without chopping and are considered to have the best flavour.
Are slightly bigger and available in brine (best to include in delicate fish dishes) or white wine vinegar (ideal for richer sauces such as hot caper sauce).
Are also available - these are well-developed capers, often with the stalk on.
Uses: As a flavouring for a range of sauces, including tartare sauce and hot caper sauce which is traditionally served with boiled mutton in Britain. They particularly complement grilled or fried fish - add a few drained capers to fish just before the end of the cooking time to give it a tangy flavour. Caperberries can be used in the same way as capers or as a garnish.
Storage: Capers should always be covered in their pickling liquid or they will dry out and their flavour deteriorates.