Grape Leaf Harvesting: What To Do With Grape Leaves

Grape Leaves Being Used As Wraps
grape leaves
(Image credit: alisafarov)

Grape leaves have been the Turkish tortilla for centuries. Using grape leaves as a wrap for different fillings kept hands clean and made a portable food item. Reportedly, the practice originated during Alexander the Great's time, during which food was scarce and meat was minced and mixed with other fillings. You can indulge in this traditional Turkish and Mediterranean food source quite easily. All you need are some tips on picking grape leaves and maybe some recipes.

What to Do with Grape Leaves

If you or someone you know has a grapevine that is grown organically, you can make one of the classic Greek staples, dolmas. Also known as dolmades, dolmas are stuffed grape leaves. The classic is only one of many grape leaf uses. Keep reading to find more things to do with grape leaves for a culinary journey around the world.

Original grape leaf uses were as wrappers for a variety of mixed fillings. Today, they have expanded and can be found in sauces, rice and grain dishes, steamed fish, and more. The leaves, when picked fairly young, are tender and tangy when blanched and brined – and commonly used for making grape-leaf pickles. They add a delicate note to many international cuisines, even Latin and Asian.

The leaves may even be incorporated into salads. These versatile leaves are packed with vitamins C, B, K, A, B6, along with iron, niacin, riboflavin, fiber, manganese, copper, folate, calcium, and more. They are low-calorie and make a great substitution for those watching their weight.

Tips on Grape Leaf Harvesting

Experts recommend harvesting leaves in the late spring to early summer. The morning is the best time for picking grape leaves to eat. Make sure the vine you harvest from has not been sprayed. Choose the medium-sized leaves which are big enough to use as wraps but not too tough. Avoid leaves with tears or holes if using them as wrappers.

The leaves should still be shiny and smooth. Avoid any stiff or hairy leaves as they will be too brittle to mold. Wash all the leaves and cut off the stems. Place washed leaves in between moist paper towels in a bag or plastic container. You can use them immediately or freeze them for up to six months.

Preparing Grape Leaves

Once your grape leaf harvesting is over, it is time to cook with them. Whether you are using grape leaves as wraps or in some other recipe, they still need to be prepped. In addition to washing them thoroughly, you might like to make a V cut and snip out the stem which can be tough.

Many chefs believe the leaves should be blanched in boiling water for a couple of minutes or brined. The brine recipe is four parts water to one part salt. Now you are ready to make dolmas, grape leaf pesto, rice, and lentil pilaf with chopped grape leaves, salmon grilled in grape leaves, stuffed leaves with gorgonzola and olives, spinach and grape leaf pie, or whatever recipe is your personal favorite! 

Bonnie L. Grant

Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.