Unusual Vegetable Plants
Vine Leaves - Grapes.
Growing grapes in the UK is not a new idea and there is more and more interest in growing them, largely due to global warming and our warmer winters, but of course it must not be forgotten that the Romans were probably the first with their large vineyards. Undoubtedly Britain’s climate was milder then, but even so people have grown grape vines in greenhouses for a long time now. However, some commercial growers feel that crops can again be grown successfully outdoors in the South of England and numerous vineyards have been planted, indeed there is one in the Midlands near to where I live in the county of Staffordshire.
Well planted vines can stay productive for up to 40 years, but do need a lot of care and they will not crop quickly after planting as it can be 3 years or more before you will be rewarded with your first proper harvest.
There are many varieties sold in garden centres some of which are more suited for outdoors and some for greenhouse cultivation. One of the most popular indoor grape varieties is Black Hamburgh. Indoor grown grapes are generally sweeter and therefore better for eating than outdoor grown crops in the UK that are more usually used for wine making.
Even if your garden is such that it can grow, but not successfully ripen grapes, the vines are still useful plants to grow as vine leaves can themselves be treated as a vegetable worth cropping. Since time immemorial vine leaves have been used in the preparation and serving of food, sometimes used as edible "plates" on which the food was served and in the Middle east as an edible food wrap, with dishes called “Dolma,” created by wrapping Vine Leaves round a rice herb and meat mixture. The leaves are also commonly used in many Greek restaurants in the UK where Cabbage leaves sometimes have to be substituted as fresh vine leaves are not always available.
To cook a "Dolma" prepare the meat/rice mixture and then tightly wrap it in a clean vine leaf. Place in water and simmer for an hour before serving either hot or cold.