As we approach the end of the harvest season, I always advise pickling and preserving fresh, organic produce. That way, you can enjoy the healthy foods and nutrients of summer throughout the fall and winter!
Of course, cucumbers are the traditional pickling food, but there are plenty of other fruits and vegetables you may not think of as pickling candidates, like beets, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, pearl onions, and watermelon. (All of which I discussed in last November’s issue of Insiders’ Cures.)
But another of my most favorite pickled delicacies are capers.
These tiny buds of the caper bush make tangy, tart additions to dishes like pasta alla puttanesca and caprese salad (tomatoes with mozzarella, olive oil, and fresh basil). You can also add pickled capers to a toasted bagel with smoked salmon or whitefish (a good source of omega-3 fatty acids), full-fat cream cheese (a good source of calcium), tomatoes (a good source of lycopene), and onions (a good source of antioxidants). Plus, pickled capers are sometimes substituted for olives to garnish a martini.
A quick history lesson on capers
Capers have been discovered in middle and late Stone Age dwellings from Greece, Israel, and Syria. And archaeologists have discovered that people have consumed them for at least 10,000 years, during the period when agriculture arose.
Capers have also been used in traditional folk medicine for centuries. And now, new research shows that quercetin, a compound commonly found in pickled capers, supports brain and heart functions.1
Researchers discovered that quercetin influences potassium flow in the body. (Potassium is a major electrolyte that modulates cellular membranes, making it critical for nerves, muscles, the heart, and other tissues.)
For the new study, various plant extracts were analyzed for their ability to influence potassium channels. The researchers found a 1 percent extract of pickled capers activated channels important for brain and heart activity. That may not sound like a lot—but if something as simple, and delicious, as eating pickled capers can offer any sort of health protection…well, I’m all ears.
It’s easy to obtain these health benefits by pickling your own capers this fall. You can likely find them at your local grocery store or farmer’s market. Begin by soaking fresh capers in water for three days. (This leaches out the berries’ natural—and unpleasant—bitterness.)
Then, for every half cup of caper berries, make a brine with half a cup of apple-cider or white-wine vinegar, half a cup of distilled water, and 1 tablespoon of salt. Place the capers and brine in a glass jar for at least three days—or until you like the taste of your pickled capers. Finally, you have free range to enjoy them however you please—including my personal favorites, as I mentioned above.
1“The ubiquitous flavonoid quercetin is an atypical KCNQ potassium channel activator.” Communications Biology, 2020; 3 (1).