Capers are the unripened flower buds of a perennial bush native to the Mediterranean. Caper bushes can be spotted growing wild in rocky crags and on coastal cliffs. Capers are picked by hand each morning as soon as they reach the desired size, then dried in the hot Mediterranean sun. While they are sometimes found packed in sea salt, most capers are pickled in a brine of vinegar or wine. Pickled capers can be used straight from the jar.
Capers range in size from that of a small peppercorn, such as the prized non-pareil variety from Southern France, to the size of a small pea. Their piquant, slightly tangy flavor makes them an excellent addition to Mediterranean dishes, especially veal, fish and chicken. They are a key ingredient in authentic scaloppini and picatta recipes.