This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
The Caper (Capparis), with which we 'are familiar, as pickled, and used in sauce with boiled mutton at table, is a product of countries which border the Mediterranean; the unopened buds being used for condimentary purposes. Sometimes instead of this (Capparis spinosa), those of the wild Caper (Euphorbia lathyris) or Caper Spurge, are substituted, being used while unripe. Canton used to be famous for its capers, but the English market has cut them out. At one time scented Capers figured largely in the list of every Italian warehouseman, and were an indispensable item in every housekeeper's list of domestic stores. But they are not now nearly so much used as formerly, when brought from Italy, or Toulon, dried, and pickled in salt or vinegar. They then had an established reputation for curing diseases of the spleen, whilst externally the pickle of capers was applied against the left side of the belly below the ribs, on linen cloths, or sponges, for reducing enlargements of the same organ. In Germany, Capers are chopped up with anchovies, and spice, and are then spread as a paste on rusks, or toast.
Our sauces, as that of Capers, were first used in the place of salt, - in Italian salza, - which the French transformed into saulza, and which ultimately became sauce.