We love eating capers, however they don’t grow in our cool temperate climate. While the plant has been known to grow in our regions, there aren’t enough hot days for the caper to actually develop. Happily for us, there is an abundant alternative, the nasturtium plant. This vigorous, edible ground creeper is planted heavily throughout our garden for bees and salads (the flower and leaf are edible). Once the plant has finished flowering, it forms its seed pod (aka the poor man caper), this is what we harvest to use as our capers. Here’s how we do it…
We harvest as many seed pods as possible – we usually do this in a few sessions as they’re so tiny that it can take a while to get the desired quantity. There will be bits of dead flower stuck to some of the seed pods so I dunk them in a bowl of water which helps the majority of the petals float to the top. It doesn’t matter if there’s still some dry petals left in there, so no need to get fussy.
You can then strain them and pop them in a bowl while you gather other ingredients. This can vary radically depending on what you have available to you. For this batch, I’ve used thyme, garlic, bay leaves, pepper corns and garlic chive flowers, but you can pick and choose your flavours to tailor it to your taste.
Next step is to put your “capers” in a clean jar and pile in your ingredients…
Next up is the critical preserving ingredient… Vinegar! We use chive vinegar which is simply apple cider vinegar that we’ve steeped chive flowers in – it changes the colour and the flavour ever so slightly.
Pour the vinegar into the jar, making sure it covers all the ingredients in the jar. Some people also add sugar to the vinegar first, heating it up on the stove so it dissolves and then pour it into the jar. This is not critical, it just adjusts the taste to make it sweeter.
Close the lid and pop it in your pantry or cupboard (out of the sun) – the vinegar will preserve it. If you’re concerned at all about this – just put it in your fridge. Leave it for at least a few weeks (the longer, the stronger the taste), once you open the jar, keep it in the fridge and eat at will. We eat ours on pizza, pasta sauce, in salads, stews – anything where we think we can get away with it.
Below you can see some capers we made last year are still going in our kitchen. They lose their colour a bit, but their taste is *strong* and delicious.
I’m a big fan of easy alternatives to the ‘real thing’. However if you’re after the real thing, contact our very dear friend Brian Noone in Adelaide at Caper Plants HERE.