Capers are the pickled, olive-green flower sprouts of the Mediterranean shrub Capparis spinosa. It is cultivated for these buds and for its fully developed fruit, the caperberry. Caperberries are about the size of a small grape with faint white stripes. They are less deep green, slightly sweeter, and have a less intense flavor than a classic caper. They can be eaten like olives and are well suited to the antipasto platter. They are splended as a Martini garnish.
Just like olive oil, the taste and consistency of the olive fruit itself is determined by the soil and climate in which it is grown. There are dozens of kinds of olives. Small Arbequinas from Spain are brined in salt water and have a nutty, buttery quality. The Hondroelia from Greece is also brined in salt water, but these huge specimens are firm and sweet. French Lucques are brined as well but offer a crunchy, mild, almost almond-like flavor. Italian dry roasted black olives are chewy with a concentrated dark taste. The Italian Saracene is oil cured into a smooth and nutty silkiness. Greek Kalamatas owe their piquancy to the red wine vinegar that is added to their brine. Taggiascas from Italy are first brined, then cured in oil for a sweet lush quality that is unmistakable.
For centuries native vegetables and fruits have been cooked and preserved to serve as accompaniment to the more bland foods of winter. In the present day pantry we still benefit from these ventures. Our shelves are filled with all varieties of tapenade, mushroom cream, artichokes in olive oil, sundried tomatoes, harissa, pesto, sugoloso, chutneys, salsas, romesco, mustards, and the like - from many small producers from many countries and in more variations than we could name.