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Demystifying capers – those pea-looking nuggets full of nutrition

Capers make appearances in many dishes. My first sighting of them happened many years ago in an Italian dish – tortellini perhaps. I thought they were peas and picked them all out. I’ve since grown to like fresh or frozen peas, and have learned a bit more about capers.

What are those pea-mimicking things they call capers?

From theheritagecook.com

Known for their Mediterranean flair, capers are the flower buds of a plant. They are typically dark green, pea-sized or slightly smaller (non-pareil, surfines) and pack a sharp, salty and sometimes lemony taste. Larger capers (capucines, capotes or grusas) are less popular. Though a caper looks like a pea, it tastes more like an olive.

Caperberries, on the other hand, are the fruit of the bush, and should not be confused with capers.

How nutritious are capers, if at all?

Instead of picking these little nuggets out of your food like I did, give them several tries. Capers provide protein, vitamins C, A and K, iron, calcium, fiber, sodium, rutin (good for circulation) and quercetin (an antioxidant, anti-bacterial, analgesic and anti-inflammatory).

Capers have helped treat hemorrhoids and varicose veins, lower LDL cholesterol in obese individuals, lessen stomachaches and flatulence and relieve arthritic pain. Because capers contain a high amount of sodium and tend to thin your blood, avoid or limit consumption of them if you are pregnant, undergoing surgery soon or have high blood pressure.

How do you cook with capers?

You’ll often find capers as a garnish or ingredient in tomato sauce or on a salad, meat or fish entrée. But you can also use capers to add a salty, pungent flavor to:

  • sauces or dressings
  • breadcrumbs
  • tuna salad
  • pasta salad
  • eggs, especially deviled
  • stews or soups

Most capers are pickled (and found near the olives in a store), so look for versions without added sugars, especially if you are following a Whole30 or Paleo protocol. Rinse capers before eating them to reduce your sodium intake and add them toward the end of your cooking process to maintain their firm texture and punchy flavor. Lastly, eat capers in moderation so you’re not taking in too much sodium.

If sodium is not your enemy, dabble with capers in your next Italian or fish dish. Look for the small, non-pareil capers without sugar and add them in your final minutes of meal prep. They may be the tastiest and most nutrient-packed gems you’ve ever eaten!


*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.