Rafed English

Capers nutrition facts

Unique, piquant flavored capers are flowering buds of a low-growing caper shrub. The buds are indeed very much desirable ingredients in the kitchens all over the Mediterranean basin. The spice buds are botanically belongs to the family of capparaceae, in the genus Capparis. Scientific name: Capparis spinosa.

The palnt is a spiny, trailing, deciduous shrub native to the Mediterranean. It prefers warm humid climate and grow in abundance all around the Cyprus, Italy, Greece, North African and some Asia Minor regions. The shrub begins producing flower (caper) buds from third year of plantation.

In general the small cream colored buds are handpicked in the early hours of the day which are otherwise unfold to a beautiful whitish-pink four sepal flowers with long tassels of purple stamens. Soon after harvesting, the buds are washed and allowed to wilt for few hours in the sun before putting into jars and covered with salt, vinegar, brine, or olive oil.

In commercial practice, capers are categorized and sold by their size in the markets. Smaller sized buds are more valuable than large ones. Non-pareil and surfines are some small buds while capucines, capotes and grusas are sold as big sized ones.

Health benefits of capers

  • Being flower buds, capers are in fact very low in calories, 23 calories per 100 g. However, the spice contains many phytonutrients, anti-oxidants and vitamins essential for optimum health.

  • Capers are one of the plant sources high in flavonoid compounds rutin (or rutoside) and quercetin. Capers are in-fact very rich source of quarcetin (180 mg/100 g) second only to tea leaf. Both these compounds are powerful anti-oxidants. Research studies suggest that quercetin has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Furthermore, rutin strengthen capillaries and inhibits platelet clump formation in the blood vessels. Both these actions of rutin help in smooth circulation of blood in very small vessels. Rutin has found application in some in trial treatments for hemorrhoids, varicose veins and in bleeding conditions such as hemophilia. It also found to reduce LDL cholesterol levels in obese individuals

  • The spicy buds contain healthy levels of vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin K, niacin, and riboflavin. Niacin helps lower LDL cholesterol.

  • Minerals like calcium, iron, and copper are present in them. High sodium levels are because of added granular sea salt (sodium chloride).

Medicinal uses

  • Caper parts have been used to relieve rheumatic pain in traditional medicines.

  • The spicy caper pickles traditionally added to recipes as appetite stimulant. In addition, they help relieve stomachache and flatulence conditions.

See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:

Capparis spinosa, canned, Nutrient value per 100 g
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Energy 23 Kcal 1%
Carbohydrates 4.89 g 4%
Protein 2.36 g 4%
Total Fat 0.86 g 3%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 3.2 g 8%

Folates 23 mcg 6%
Niacin 0.652 mg 4.5%
Pantothenic acid 0.027 mg 0.5%
Pyridoxine 0.023 mg 2%
Riboflavin 0.139 mg 11%
Thiamin 0.018 mg 1.5%
Vitamin A 138 IU 4%
Vitamin C 4.3 mg 7%
Vitamin E 0.88 mg 6%
Vitamin K 24.6 mcg 20.5%

Sodium 2954 mg 197%
Potassium 40 mg 1%

Calcium 40 mg 4%
Copper 0.374 mg 42%
Iron 1.67 mg 21%
Magnesium 33 mg 8%
Manganese 0.078 mg 3%
Phosphorus 10 mg 1%
Selenium 1.2 mcg 2%
Zinc 0.32 mg 3%

Carotene-ß 83 mcg --
Carotene-? 0 mcg --
Cryptoxanthin-ß 0 mcg --
Lutein-zeaxanthin 0 mcg --

Selection and storage

If you are not from the countryside then you are most likely can find these beautiful tiny olive-green buds filled in a narrow tall glass jar submerged in their pickling medium in spice stores and groceries. Pickled capers are readily available around the year in the markets.

Traditionally, soon after their harvest, the buds are hand washed and allowed to dry in the sun for few hours before being put into tall jars containing vinegar, brine, or olive oil. Alternatively, they can also be preserved in coarse sea salt alone.

In general, small size buds (less than one centimeter) are considered more flavorful than the larger buds (more than 1?cm diameter). Capers should be preserved by immersing in the pickling medium; otherwise, they will develop an off-flavor. Once you open the jar, make sure the bottle is refrigerated for future use. Use stainless steel spoon or fork to take them out from the jar.

Culinary uses

Capers, its tender shoots, as well as immature berries are used in cooking. Raw buds have neutral flavor and need to be processed in pickling medium to develop unique piquant flavor.

They feature in variety of cuisines worldwide, especially in Mediterranean cooking.

Here are some serving tips:

  • They are added to prepare tartare (tuna, venison, salmon etc) and tonnato sauce.

  • The pickled buds used as a flavoring in antipasto salads and as a topping in pizzas.

  • Capers render special taste to vegetable, meat, veal and fish (especially along with anchovie sauce) recipes.

  • Remoulade is a popular aioli or mayonnaise based sauce in northern Europe uses capers brine as one of the main ingredient.

Share this article

Comments 0

Your comment

Comment description