Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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Capers are the unopened flower buds of a Mediterranean bush, Capparis spinosa, which have been gathered from the wild and pickled for thousands of years, though cultivated only for a couple of centuries. The caper bush is distantly related to the cabbage family and has its pungent sulfur compounds, which dominate in the raw flower bud. The bud is preserved in various ways—in brine, in vinegar, dry-salted— and used as a sour-salty accent in sauces and dishes, especially with fish. When dry-salted, the caper bud undergoes an astonishing transformation: its radish and onion notes are displaced by the distinct aroma (from ionone and raspberry ketone) of violets and raspberries!