Stuffed grape leaves, known as ‘dolmathes’ (ντολμάδες) or ‘dolmathakia’ (ντολμαδάκια) here in Greece, are undoubtedly one of the most iconic Mediterranean foods. The tender grapevine leaves or ‘ampelofilla’ (αμπελόφυλλα) that are used make these traditional rice-and-herb rolls might be well known to many, but did you know other parts of the grapevine are edible as well? No, I am not talking about the grapes.
In Greece, during the months of April and May, grapevines start sprouting shoots, tendrils and new leaves rapidly like many plants do in springtime. If you like to keep your vines healthy and full of tasty fruits during summer, it is necessary to thin them out once during the autumn/winter period after all the grapes have gone and once again during this sprouting season in early spring before the grapes start to (fully) develop. Unless you want your vine to climb up on a trellis, it is necessary to remove many of the little shoots and tendrils (‘ampelokorfathes’ (αμπελοκορφάδες) or ‘ampelovlastara’ (αμπελοβλάσταρα) in Greek) as well in order to stop the plant from wrapping around its own branches and leaves and not allow enough sunlight and air to pass through.
Depending on how many plants you have (but even if you’ve only got a few as we do in our garden) you usually end up with a whole bunch of vine shoots, tendrils, young leaves and perhaps some underdeveloped baby grapes that have accidentally been cut off as well – all of which you luckily don’t have to throw away! While you can keep the young and tender leaves to make the well known Greek dolmathes, the shoots and tendrils can be pickled and served as a delicious meze, or added to salads or pasta and rice dishes. The vine shoots naturally have a slightly tart, wine-y flavour, which is amplified by pickling them in red wine vinegar, salt and some optional flavourings such as garlic cloves, peppercorns and oregano.
Ampelokorfathes Toursi/ Αμπελοκορφάδες Τουρσί (Greek Pickled Grapevine Shoots)
- 300g grapevine shoots*
- 15g fine sea salt
- 400ml red wine vinegar
- 200ml water
- olive oil to top up
- optional: peppercorns, garlic cloves and/or dried herbs
- 1-liter mason jar
- *weight after removing thick/tough pieces, so start off with a bit more if you can. Amount is for one 1L mason jar.
- Wash grapevine shoots very well and remove tough and very thick pieces.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Boil shoots for 10 minutes, then drain and allow to cool slightly.
- Add cooked shoots to your 1-litre mason jar (or divide over smaller jars) and press down well.
- Add salt, 400ml red wine vinegar and 200ml water (and other flavourings, if using) to your jar(s), then top up with olive oil until all shoots are completely covered.
- Close jar well and store in a cold, dark place for at least a week before using to allow flavours to combine well.