Various groups of people have been eating capers for thousands of years. Ancient Greece was well known for its use of capers for preventing intestinal gas. Surprisingly, capers were popular aphrodisiacs as evidenced by the Hebrew word for “caper berry” being very closely related to “desire.”
In modern times, we see most capers cultivated in Morocco, Turkey, the Mediterranean, and California (U.S.). The best flavored capers are those which are picked very early on and are very small berries. These are the ones we usually see in puttanesca dishes. These buds are also found served with cured salmon dishes or added to tartar sauce. Because of the salty flavor, many people have wondered whether they are healthy or not.
What Are Capers?
Capers are the unopened buds of the Capparis spinosa plant that is usually pickled in a brine of salt and vinegar or wine, and can also be salt-cured. They are known for having a lot of flavor, particularly for how small they are, and work very well in salads, pasta dishes and sauces.
Why Are Capers Considered Healthy?
Here are a few reasons why capers are considered to be healthy:
Blood Circulation & Blood Clotting
Capers are very high in Vitamin K, which supports blood clotting. They are also high in rutin, which is a unique flavonoid that can also be found in apples and buckwheat. Rutin helps to improve blood vessel strength and supports blood circulation. It also is effective in promoting optimal brain health.
Capers also contain high levels of quercetin, a powerful flavonoid that reduces inflammation. It has antibacterial properties that help to support digestive, skin, and respiratory health. Quercetin is also a powerful zinc ionophore, which is important because it helps zinc get into the cells to protect against COVID-19, flus, and other illnesses. It also supports immune function meaning that quercetin may act as a natural antihistamine to reduce allergic symptoms as well. Good sources for natural quercetin include red apples, onions, and buckwheat.
As mentioned, capers are a good source of Vitamin K that helps support not only blood clotting, but also overall bone health. Other foods that provide healthy Vitamin K levels are leafy greens, which are also good sources of calcium. So, when coupled together, that can be a very good combination for supporting healthy bones.
Capers have been used in traditional Oriental medicine to promote liver function – as well as kidney health and heart function. They are a natural diuretic and can reduce triglycerides and cholesterol. Other foods that nourish the liver are barley, wheat, farro
, leafy greens, and mild sour tastes like brown rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
How to Use Capers in a Dish
Capers are generally used in salads, pastas, sauces, and as a nice addition to a dish that is improved with a nice tart and tangy flavor. It’s best to add capers near the end of cooking to preserve their unique flavor and texture.
Here’s one of Susan Waxman’s recipes that uses capers, which is also a favorite of Denny’s. Enjoy!
Spicy Cauliflower Pasta Sauce
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Begin preparing the pasta water while you are preparing the sauce.
- 1 package of pasta
- 1 head of cauliflower separated into medium-sized florets
- 2 ½ cups onions, diced
- 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced thin or left whole
- ½ to ¾ cup grated carrots
- 2 cups of whole peeled tomatoes
- Hot pepper flakes, a dash of harissa (1/4 teaspoon), or both
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ to 1/3 cup oil-cured Moroccan olives, diced
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1 tablespoon barley miso
- 3 to 4 cups of liquid; use a combination of fresh water and the liquid from cooking the pasta
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 ½ to 2 teaspoons sea salt
- Gently heat olive oil in a pan, add the onions, and begin to sauté
- Add a little water and the garlic and continue to sauté
- Add salt, pepper flakes, and harissa
- Add a small ladle of pasta cooking liquid
- Add the grated carrots
- Add the tomatoes and liquid
- Add the miso and a little more olive oil, cover, and let simmer for 8 minutes
- Add the cauliflower florets and cover, let simmer for 4 to 5 minutes
- Remove the lid and add a little more pasta cooking water
- Add additional olive oil if needed
- Add the black olives and capers and cook for 2 minutes
- Add the pasta, a drizzle of olive oil, and additional salt to taste
- Toss the pasta with the sauce and serve immediately
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