Did you know that vine leaves are actually nutritious and not only good for stuffing ingredients in them to make dolmades?
Let’s talk about those delicious leaves that many people are likely to just be throwing away in the compost heap and only giving credit to the grapes.
Vine leaves are high in vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, calcium, manganese, copper, magnesium and iron. In other words, they help with our immune system, keep bones healthy and strong and are rich in antioxidants.
If you don’t already have grape vine but would like to grow one, have a look on the Royal Horticultural Society’s website for more information. I was lucky enough to have inherited my lovely grape vine, when I took over my allotment in Brighton.
Harvesting: Spring is a great time to start harvesting vine leaves. You can continue harvesting all the way until autumn or when the leaves start to turn yellow and the grape vine starts to die down from the cold weather. Grape vines normally produce hundreds of vine leaves and the more you cut them off, the better you will promote the growth of more leaves.
When picking them, its best to cut off the medium-sized leaves which are still tender. My method is to check that they don’t have large ‘veins’ as those are what gives the leaf a tough texture when you eat them.
Storing: Vine leaves will store really well in the freezer, which means you can have a supply of them all year round. The best way to store them in the freezer is by first blanching them. I tend to place a few leaves at a time, in a pan of boiling water for a couple of minutes and then straining them until they are dry enough to be placed in the freezer. When I plan on using them, I’ll normally take them out of the freezer the night before and defrost them in the fridge. The taste as good as fresh!
Cooking: Although traditionally in Greek and middle eastern cuisines vine leaves are used for dolmades, I’d urge people to get creative with their stuffing ideas. You could stuff them with anything you wish, and cook them anyway you like. It all depends on your taste, but it’s good to keep in mind that the vine leaves naturally have a slightly bitter taste so make sure whatever you use will taste well together.
Tip: The internet is full of ideas for recipes, so even if you’ve never made stuffed vines leaves before, I guarantee you will find the right recipe for you on there.