As anyone who tries to eat locally soon finds out, condiments can be a sticking point. Finding locally-made salt is all-but-impossible in most areas, and good luck finding local black pepper or cardamom.
Capers are also nigh-on impossible to source locally. Made from the unripened flower buds of a plant that grows wild all over the Mediterranean, they travel a long way to get to your plate. But, unlike salt, there’s a great substitute that can flourish almost anywhere in North America: pickled nasturtium buds. I had a chance to taste some recently. Pickled in salty brine, they taste almost exactly like capers, but better: piquant, peppery, juicy. And they’re huge, about the size of a malted milk ball instead of a pea.
Summer is the perfect time to pick the buds, according to Sandor Ellix Katz, author of the book Wild Fermentation. Look for a crinkled, brain-like nodule at the base of bloomed-out nasturtium flowers. Pick them, soak them for about a week in a solution of 3/4 tablespoon of table salt for each cup of water, and use them in sandwiches, salads, pastas, and whatever else you’d use capers in.