Caper (Capparis spinosa aggregate) – Κάπαρη

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When asked to name a case of a bud, more popular than the flower or even the fruit, which one comes to mind? I always think about the caper.

Capers are beautiful pea sized, dark green flower buds known since the Palaeolithic-era. In Ancient Greece, Hippocrates mentioned its expectorant properties; Dioscourides advised mouthwashes with an infusion made with capers boiled in vinegar. It was also believed that its skin had toning and aphrodisiac properties. The poet Antiphanis mentions capers as one of the spices along with sesame, cumin, thyme, marjoram, vinegar and olives.

The caper bushes are native to the Mediterranean and usually grow in rocky, dry areas. Other varieties can be found in other places of Europe, as well as Asia and Africa. They are categorised and sold by size. Their price is usually high, due to their laborious harvesting method: not only do they have to be hand-picked but also picking needs to take place quite early in the morning. Then, they are sun dried and either salted or pickled. The unpicked buds, bloom into white- pinkish flowers and in the evenings, they release a sweet, pleasant scent. In Greece the caper leaves are considered a delicacy and are usually added fresh in salads or pickled as mezze. When opportunity comes, do try them- you are in for a treat!

These spice buds with their piquant, salty and sour flavour as well as their floral aroma, act as flavour enhancers. They are great with fish, tomatoes and onions and are often used in conjunction with lemon. Widely used as a condiment or a flavourful garnish, they are essential to dishes like Santorini fava, puttanesca pasta, Nicoise salad, as well as in tartar and remoulade sauces.

Nutritional value wise, they are very low in calories and contain many phytonutrients, anti-oxidants (high in in flavonoid compounds rutin and quercetin) such as and vitamins essential for optimal health. We would advise you to pay special attention to their high sodium levels.

So, what are you waiting for? Treat yourselves to our organic and wild capers in olive oil (not brine); they are hand picked, prepared and packed for us with love, care and expertise by Mrs Love (Κα. Αγάπη) in Southern Crete!

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