Vine Leaves

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

vine leaves are consumed as a vegetable in various parts of the world. see dolma for the principal use, when the leaves are stuffed with a mixture based on meat or rice. They do impart something of their own pleasantly acid flavour to a stuffing, but in other respects they may be replaced, if not available, by other edible leaves.

A remarkable example of double replacement seems to have occurred in Vietnam and California. The story goes that the Middle Eastern practice of wrapping meat in vine leaves was taken to India by the Persians and subsequently introduced by the Indians to SE Asia. However, although the merits of the arrangement were recognized, there was a practical problem in that grape vines do not grow well in a tropical climate. So the Vietnamese started to use leaves of Piper lolot (called by them la lot) in much the same manner. The next instalment came when Vietnamese emigrated to the USA, taking with them la lot leaves for culinary use. They soon found that la lot is difficult to grow in the Mediterranean climate of California; so, little knowing that they were completing a full circle, they substituted the vine leaves which were easily available. See also wrapped foods.