Traverse City Record-Eagle


July 9, 2014

Grape leaves grow wild, delicious

TRAVERSE CITY — The wild grape vine's prolific creep seemingly grows anywhere and on everything, its path cloaked in a smothering blanket of curlicues and papery green leaves. It twists up trees, electric poles and siding, snaking down wires in its quest to gobble daylight.

Relentless opportunists, they escape all but the most extreme eradication methods. Homeowners have more luck ripping out their hair than ripping out the vine.

But when life hands you wild grape vines, make grape leaves.

Wild grape leaves make traditional, edible containment devices for everything from fish to lemony Greek rice stuffing.

"If you can name it, you can stuff in a grape leaf," said Eric Patterson, chef at the Cooks' House in Traverse City. "Anything ground or minced is fair game. If you're a vegetarian, just pick a legume, whatever you want."

Whitefish wrapped and roasted in grape leaves is a house favorite, Patterson said. Leaves are made tough, so they hold up to blanching and often stretch to accommodate fillings.

"They make a beautiful presentation," he said. "They're fun and different."

Localvores also delight as leaves are plentiful and found close to home. Sally Berlin recently hosted a demonstration in her store, Beulah's Crystal Crate & Cargo, on turning fresh grape leaves into vegetarian Greek stuffed grape leaves. The dolmades are from Up North Global, and made in the Grow Benzie Incubator Kitchen in Benzonia.

"They are so great, and so fresh," Berlin said. "Mother Nature does everything for you."

But before you serve up that annoying garage climber for dinner, there are a few things to consider.

1. Grape vines are often treated with toxic pesticides and herbicides. Make sure the leaves you plan to eat have not been sprayed or treated.

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