That is what I said the first time I saw a caper. I must have led a deprived childhood because my mom never used capers in her cooking. It sort of looks like a pea to me as it is small and on the greenish side, probably best described as an olive green color. Capers are pickled flower buds, and they are picked from a plant called capparis spinosa. A different kind of caper would be a wild escapade planned by a villain, but that is off topic here.
Capers must be handpicked, so they are harvested individually because they are too small and delicate to be plucked by a machine, and that is why they are so expensive. Capers are berries and they are classified as being a fruit. Any portion of a plant that contains seeds is technically considered a fruit. A fruit is the ovary of a plant and a caper would fall into that category. It seems romantic discussing the plant ovary which is a part of the female reproductive organ of the flower, as it is ready to burst out and greet the day. When you pick the bud before it becomes a flower, that is what is referred to as a caper. To be more exact, it should be called a caper bud, as the whole plant is a caper plant and it has various other parts which are not used in cooking, so what we are calling a caper is just the caper bud.
Capers are the un-ripened flower buds on the caper plant. This plant goes through various stages and if the bud is left on the plant, then it should open up and become a beautiful purple and white flower. If you let the flower fall off, it will be replaced by a fruit and that fruit is called the caper berry. Capers are not the same thing as caperberries and to clarify this, capers are the immature flower buds of the bush like plant, while caperberries are the fruit that the bush produces once the buds have flowered and then been fertilized. Caper berries are usually brined so they can be eaten like pickles or olives and you might see them included in an antipasti platter.
Why is it that I never saw one till I was 30 years old as they have been used since 2000 B.C. and they are even mentioned as a food in the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh? That epic Akkadian poem from ancient Mesopotamia and Sumeria, which is considered the first great work of literature, oh wait I have gone off topic again. Capers are a condiment, usually pickled, they add a burst of flavor to foods, and this flavor is described as being lemony, olive-y and definitely salty. They are widely used in sauce making, in salads or as a flavorful garnish and they are frequently used in conjunction with lemons.