In Greece young tips and shoots clipped while thinning or pruning from all sorts of plants are often eaten in salads, added as an ingredient in stews, stuffed into savoury pies, or often preserved as pickles. One particular shoot I am fond of is new growth tips from pistachio trees – pickled and surprisingly peppery and great with both meats and cheese. I do not have pistachio trees – nor do I think they would even grow in a cool British environment. So, the chance of making these here in Britain would be close to 0%. Another Greek pickle that would be difficult to reproduce in Britain are pickled caper shoots as the plant grows in hot arid conditions. However, young grapevine shoots are also preserved and I just happen to have a rampant grapevine in need of pruning. Grapevine shoots are considered a seasonal delicacy in Greece, usually available in the markets in early spring. Lucky for me that the season extends into the summer here in cool Britain.
Yet, after doing a little bit of research, I discovered that pickled shoots may be more universal than I thought. Elder shoots were traditionally pickled in Britain and recipes for such show up in 18th-century historic cookbooks. Pickled hop shoots were also a British delicacy – revived and become somewhat trendy lately. All of this makes me wonder what shoots various other cultures traditionally consume and preserve. Perhaps a bit more research is in order? Though, it will have to wait until after the pruning and garden cleanup…and pickling.
Pickled Grapevine Shoots
This is roughly based on a recipe I found in The Mediterranean Pantry by Aglaia Kremezi.
- 70-80g grapevine shoots
- 180ml (approximately 6 fluid oz.) white wine vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 whole small dried red chillies
- 1/4 cup currants
Collect the tender shoots from the tips of grapevines. Heat a pot of well salted water. Rinse the shoots and add once the water boils. Lightly boil for 5 minutes. Drain, but do not rinse.
Peel and cut the garlic cloves in half lengthwise. Assemble the other ingredients. In the same pot that was used to blanch the vine shoots, heat the vinegar and honey until the honey dissolves. Turn off heat and add the currants, fennel seeds, garlic and whole chilli peppers. Let them steep for about 5 to 10 minutes. Drain, reserving the warm vinegar syrup in a pourable container and the currants etc. in a small bowl.
In a clean jar, layer one third of the vine shoots in the bottom. Put half of the currant mixture on top, layer another third of the vine leaves, the the rest of the currants. Finish by putting the rest of the vine shoots on top. Pour on the warm vinegar syrup to cover, seal and let cool.
Place in the back of your refrigerator and let the pickles mature for at least a month before consuming. Great on their own, with cheese or charcuterie meats. Can also be used in salads and are particularly good when chopped and added to potato salads.