The Greeness of Spring: Celebrating Canyon Grape Leaves
For this month’s Spring Greens blogparty, hosted by Darcey Blue of Gaia’s Gifts.
Every year Loba and I gather pounds and pounds of fresh wild Grape leaves. From the time the first tender heart shaped leaves unfurl until the oldest, toughest leaves turn color and fall we spend a little while nearly every day gathering these tart, tasty greens.
We love them fresh, chopped or diced and added to stews, salads, chili and any number of other savory dishes. When they get big as the palm of my hand we use them to wrap up spicy curries, lentils, freshly grilled wild meat and whatever else we can scoop up. As the summer unfolds and the canyon is deeply shaded by the prolific vines, we gather even more leaves and add them to a gallon jar of salt water. Brined grape leaves are at least as good as the fresh and will last all winter until the next batch of leaves is ready.
Grape leaves also make an excellent salve or poultice for all kinds of swellings, bug bites and minor wounds. Internally, they’re a superb liver tonic and act as a gentle alterative for the whole metabolic system. They make a great all around nourisher for nursing mothers, pregnant women or those preparing for child bearing. They can be dried and used as an infusion or just eaten up as a wonderfully multi-purpose food. The leaves and berries are a traditional treatment for recovery from a long illness or general malnourishment. The entire Grape plant is loaded with minerals and other nutrients, and the berry is an unrivaled blood tonic.
I’m not sure there’s much Grapes AREN’T good for, actually. Extremely common here in the cool canyons of NM, I can find a Grape leaf for a wound or for lunch pretty much no matter where I am. I expect that eating the leaves and berries as a food is the best way to use the plant, but I also make a salve of the leaves and tincture the leaves and berries as well.
As a food, Grape leaves belong in nearly any Mediterranean dish, especially those including lamb or goat cheese! Loba and I’s favorite style of eating is a crazy and colorful amalgam of Mexican, Mediterranean and Asian cuisines, and Grape leaves find their way into the majority of our meals, especially during the hot summer months when the sour taste helps to cool the body and lighten the palate.
Just now, the tiny buds of the Grape vines are fat and just beginning to open. The scent of these provocative yet delicate flowers is as intoxicating as any wine, and fills the canyon with the heady aroma of fertility and sensuality.
Grape leaf & bud pic (c) 2008 Kiva Rose