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Grape leaves are medium to large in size and are cordate, or heart-shaped, with multiple lobes. The smooth, vibrant green leaves grow in an alternate pattern and have serrated, also known as toothed edges and pointed tips on each lobe. Grape leaves grow on climbing vines that can reach over seventeen meters in height. The vines use forking tendrils, which are tiny branches that twist around other plants and objects to climb. Grape leaves are tender and have a light citrusy, green, and tangy taste.
Grape leaves are available mid-summer through early winter.
Grape leaves, botanically classified as Vitis, grow on a perennial, deciduous vining plant and belong to the Vitaceae family. Grape leaves are harvested when they are fresh, whole, young and still green. They are a secondary crop, and their culinary purpose is to serve as a vessel and textural component. Grape leaves have been used across the world for centuries as a wrapping for meat and rice dishes. The leaves impart a green, tangy flavor and also act as a sponge. Once cooked, the leaves will absorb and reflect the flavor profiles of the ingredients they carry.
Grape leaves contain fiber, calcium, iron, antioxidants, vitamins A, C, E, and K, potassium, and magnesium.
Grape leaves can be used raw in salads or in cooked applications such as steaming and boiling. They are most commonly stuffed with seasonal and regional vegetables, rice, and meats and are cooked into a soft texture. They can also be adorned with traditional sauces made from cheeses, citrus, cream, olive oil, vinegar. Fresh grape leaves are recommended to be blanched in hot water or a brine solution of salt and water to create an edible and flexible product. In addition to fresh leaves, Grape leaves can also be found in the store already canned and preserved. Grape leaves pair well with bulgar, pine nuts, yogurt, herbs such as mint, dill, and parsley, aromatics such as fennel, onions, and garlic, meats such as minced lamb, beef, or pork, lemon, and eggplant. They will keep for a couple of days when stored fresh in the refrigerator and up to six months when wrapped in plastic and stored in an airtight container or plastic bag in the freezer.
One of the most historical and traditional culinary uses of the Grape leaf is within the Greek dish, dolmathes. The word dolma is Arabic and is a term used for something stuffed. Dolmathes is a variation of that word and stems back to when Greece, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean were under the Ottoman Empire’s rule. Dolmathes are stuffed with meat, rice, and herbs and are served hot or cold with the lemon-based sauce, avgolemono. Only in Greece are dolmathes served with avgolemono, and the combination imparts a rich, salty, and sour flavor. Dolmathes are typically served as an appetizer or as a side dish to the main course.
The first cultivation of the grapevine began roughly 8,000 years ago in Persia and spread throughout the region via the Phoenicians. Grapevine cultivation for food and wine would eventually become a cultural significance for Ancient Greece, North Africa, Europe, and even the Americas. Today, Grape leaves can be found in fresh markets mainly in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, but they can also be found in Asia, the Americas, and parts of Africa.
Recipes that include Grape Leaves. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Fine Dining Lovers||Greek Dolmades (Stuffed Vine Leaves)|