The name caper comes from the Latin, capra meaning goat, so either this is because they smell strongly or goats like them. Maybe it’s a combination of both as capers are pungent and astringent. Spinosa means spiny as the bush they grow on has thorns. They are believed to have originated in dry areas of West or central Asia, but they grow in abundance in the Mediterranean region. It could be that the name capparis comes for Kypros the Greek name for the island of Cyprus where they grow prolifically.
   They are the edible bud of the caper bush picked immediately before they flower and preserved in oil, vinegar or brine. Like the buds of the kachnar tree, they taste very good. The fruits or berries can be eaten too, and tender young shoots including the immature small leaves can be eaten as a cooked vegetable. The mature fruits can also be cooked and eaten as a vegetable, but the capers we generally eat are the flower buds, bought in a jar from the supermarket.
  I have picked wild capers in the Sibylline hills in Italy and eaten the fresh leaves and shoots, and this was close to where the Sibyl was supposed to have lived; in the Marche region close to Tuscany.
   Pliny mentioned capers, (23-79 AD), writing that the best ones in the Roman Empire came from near the Sea of Galilee. Dioscorides also mentions them remarking that they were a cash crop for the Greeks. Some of the best capers I have tasted came from the Cycladic Island of Santorini or Thera.
   The fruit are edible and eaten raw in the Eastern parts of India as an appetizer. We can use them as appetizers too, as they are great deep fried for 30 seconds and served with black Kalamata olives with drinks.
   The dried rind from the fruits has antiseptic properties and is used in the subcontinent to polish silver and gold items and in Ayurvedic medicine parts of the caper fruit and bark are used to cure flatulence, improve liver functions and as an anti-rheumatic. Infusions and decoctions of the root bark are used to treat anaemia, arthritis and gout. Traditionally the caper bush parts have also been used to improve kidney functioning and in the treatment of osteoporosis.
   The oil from the seeds contains mainly oleic acid linoleic acid and smaller amounts of palmitic and steoric acid. Capers have antioxidant properties and are believed to be hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and phyto-protective, so they are very good for us, even though they can only be eaten in small quantities.
   There is some evidence that capers have been used in cookery since before the times of the pharaohs in ancient Egypt. They are good in rocket salads and some people have used marsh marigold buds as a substitute for them, but the best substitute is nasturtium buds, although they are not really as good as capers. You can use them as an edible garnish for dishes and they go well in piquant fish and meat sauces, and are a good addition to a potato salad.  There are many recipes using them with fresh and smoked salmon too. You can also add them to relishes and pickles. Rinse them before using them when you get them out of the jar though.

Serves 4
4 halves of chicken breasts, pounded until very thin
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 glass white wine
2 tbsps lemon juice
2 tbsps capers
2 oz butter
olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
salt to taste

Put flour, black pepper, oregano and a little salt in a plastic bag and shake to mix, then add chicken a piece at a time and coat evenly with the flour mixture.
Melt butter with the oil and fry the chicken pieces for 3 mins each side or until they are golden brown.
Remove chicken pieces and add onion and garlic to the pan and fry until cooked. Then add the liquids and stir so that all the brown bits are incorporated into the liquid. Cook for 2 mins then serve over the chicken and pasta of your choice.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

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