Grape Leaves

From the Arabic word meaning "something stuffed," dolmades [dohl-MAH-dehs] are grape leaves, fruits or vegetables stuffed with a savory, well-seasoned filling.
Harvested for culinary use, the large, tender, green leaves of the grapevine are especially popular in Greece and the Middle East, where they are stuffed with mixtures of rice and meat and rolled into cigar-shaped dolmades. The leaves are also sometimes used to protect and flavor small French cheeses, or to cover small game birds when using high-heat cooking methods like grilling or broiling.

Varieties and Buying Tips

Grape leaves are not usually commercially available fresh, but Greek and Middle Eastern markets will carry bottled or canned leaves packed in brine.

If you have a grapevine growing in your backyard, you can use your own leaves so long as they are unsprayed. The best time to harvest them is early to mid-summer.

Storage Tips

Refrigerate grape leaves in their brine, in a nonmetal, airtight container. They will keep indefinitely.

Usage Tips

• Brine-packed leaves should be rinsed before using to remove some of the salty flavor.

• Use extra care when removing leaves from bottles or jars—they tear easily.

• Fresh leaves should be steamed or blanched until softened and pliable.

• When stuffing, don't roll too tightly. Give your stuffing ingredients some room to cook and swell up.

• Stuffed grape leaves make a great party appetizer because they can be prepared up to one week ahead.

• Stuffed grape leaves may be served hot, at room temperature or cold. Top with a dollop of yogurt.

• Enhance the flavor of mushrooms by cooking them in a pot lined with grape leaves.

• When pickling cucumbers, add grape leaves to your brine to make your pickles crisp.

• Use grape leaves in salads or as decorations or garnishes.

Try one of our favorite grape leaf recipes:

Greek Dolmas
Stuffed Grape Leaves (Vegetarian)
Grilled Goat Cheese in Fresh Grape Leaves