Capparis spinosa is the caper bush. The plant is best known for the edible, unripened flower buds – capers – kapary (in Polish) which are often used as a seasoning and are usually pickled in brine, vinegar or wine.
These perennial plants are native to the Mediterranean and some parts of Asia. Their use dates back to around 2,000 BC where they are mentioned as a food in Sumerian literature.
The caper buds are picked by hand which can make the cost of a small jar expensive.
Pickled nasturtium (Tropaeolum maius) (nasturcja in Polish) seeds – often called poor man’s capers are a good substitute.
Cooking With Capers
Capers have long been used in the Mediterranean region especially in Italian cooking.
Capers are usually added to the dish toward the end of the cooking process, to keep their shape and flavour.
Sos kaparowy – Caper sauce
This is very popular in Poland and is made with chopped capers and mayonnaise and is served with hard-boiled eggs.
Potato Salad with Capers
This is my variation of the classic Polish potato salad with caper sauce.
200g waxy potatoes
100g whole green beans
2-3 spring onions – green part
2 tablespoons of capers – drained
2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise – home-made or a good full fat bought variety
1 tablespoon of made up mustard
Salt & pepper
2 – 3 hard-boiled eggs
The potatoes, green beans and the peas all need to be boiled or steamed, drained and then dried as much as possible using a clean tea towel.
I usually use starchy potatoes for potato salad but have found that waxy ones are better for this one.
Chop the beans into small pieces.
Chop the green parts of the onion into fine pieces.
In a bowl mix the cooked and dried vegetables, the capers and the spring onions.
Mix together the mayonnaise and the mustard.
I have found that the lighter sort of mayonnaise soon makes this salad have a watery dressing after a very short time. It is better to use home-made mayonaise or a good bought one – I use Hellmann’s.
Mix the vegetables with the dressing and add salt & pepper to taste.
Chop the hard-boiled eggs and scatter these on the top of the salad to serve.
Served here in a bowl by Meakin – Cadiz – 1964 – 1970