The floral bud of a spiny shrub, native to Mediterranean regions, which is harvested as an unopened bud in various sizes as it grows on the bush. Buds picked just before blooming have a slight pink hue, while buds that have bloomed are not used for capers. The buds are generally pickled in a wine vinegar, brine cured, or dry cured and packed in sea salt. Capers packed in a liquid brine or pickled in vinegar may tend to be slightly soft in texture and contain more of the vinegar flavor, due to being pickled prior to packing. Capers that are salt-packed retain more of their flavor and their firmer texture, but should be rinsed well and soaked in water for 10 to 15 minutes before using so their stronger flavor doesn't adversely affect the taste of the food being prepared. If the salt used for packing has become yellowed, then too much moisture has been absorbed, spoiling the capers.
Capers are categorized according to size. The smallest capers grow at the tips of the bush and become increasingly larger as you move down the branches of the bush toward the base. The smallest are referred to as Nonpareils or Non Pareils (7mm) which provide a very delicate and more concentrated flavor that is less vinegary in taste than larger capers. Next in size are the Surfines (7 to 9 mm), after which there are Capucines (8 to 9 mm), Capotes (9 to 11 mm), Fines (11 to 13 mm), and Grusas (14mm and larger).
Capers can be served as a condiment, as a seasoning for salads, fish and poultry, as a garnish, or as an ingredient for sauces and marinades.