Pickles From Pruning

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.

grape_vine_july

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_vine_shoots

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.

pickled_vine_shoots_feature

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.

pickled_vine_shoots_prep1

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.

pickled_vine_shoots_prep2

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.

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29 comments

  1. I almost didn’t read this when I saw pistachio shoots mentioned, but glad I persevered. It is an understatement to say I have lots of grapevine shoots, and would love to try this recipe. Wish I had thought of it, but thanks for posting.

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    • Do let me know how your grapevine shoot pickles turn out – if you try it. Sometimes recipes call for a mixture of coriander and fennel seeds, but I only added the fennel. But, I suppose it would do with any sort of pickling brine. Sky’s the limit!

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    • This is an old traditional way of preserving – at least in Greece. I guess we are more adventurous now seeking different recipes from other cultures that do not necessarily show up on tourist menus.

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    • Why not try? However, will nettle shoots be robust enough and not turn to mush when cooked? Grapevine shoots (and leaves) have a lot of tannin in them and somewhere I read somewhere that adding grapevine leaves to pickles helps keep the vegetables crisp. I really should look into different sorts of pickled shoots in different cultures – European ones, at least.

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      • Ah please do! Pretty please with a pickle on top. And it’s true about grape leaves, in ferments as well, like cucumber pickles. And blackberry/ raspberry leaves too, for that tannin crunchiness. Which got me thinking about pickling bramble shoots…… (have made tea from them)… hmmmmmm. Take care Kitchen Witch, love, Kitchencounterculture x

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  2. I used to get loads of elder shoots in my old house which drove me crazy – if only I’d known about this before I would have treated them with love and respect as a potential food item!

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    • After I read your comment, I had to do a little more investigating on elder shoots. The reference I had came from Hannah Glasse, The art of cookery made plain and simple (1774) as a way of pickling elder shoots in imitation of bamboo (shoots). She simply states “elder shoots” and I am unclear if she is referring to the elder tree (Sambucus) or to the weed known as ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria). Ground elder is edible and eaten by the Romans and even today, but I could not find any modern references to the shoots of the elder tree being eaten – only the flowers and the dark purple berries. So, who knows? When attempting to eat anything in the wild, it is always best to err on the side of caution.

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  3. Wow. What a great post. Pretty photos too. I wish I had shoots of any kind growing, but I can get some in stores. Informative and delicious! Thank you.

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    • Thanks! I thought the photo of the newly collected shoots turned out well. I usually pickle these shoots every year as I hate to see them go to waste. I also collect the tender leaves and preserve them for making dolmades (stuffed grapevine leaves).

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    • Unusual, isn’t it. I was introduced to these in Greece along with the pickled pistachio shoots and the caper shoots. The caper shoots, not surprisingly, taste like mild caper berries. Too bad neither of these commonly grow in Britain!

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    • They aren’t common tourist fare, but many home cooks pickle shoots. Sometimes you can find them bottled and for sale in markets. But, when I started looking i to it, I discovered that many cultures pickle different sorts of shoots. I’ve been making these grapevine shoot pickles for a number of years now and they are usually on hand to liven up a meze platter.

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  4. I love to see old recipes shared. I’ve never heard of pickled shoots of any kind and am fairly certain they weren’t a part of my family’s cooking tradition. Grandpa had a number of grape vines and the only things harvested were the grapes. 🙂

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    • I wonder if your grandfather (or grandmother) used the grapevine leaves for anything? Vine leaves are a Greek classic, but I’ve also seen them used in Spanish recipes (such as wrapped around sardines before placing them on the grill). From what I’ve experienced in Greece, it seems that weeds as well as pruned scrapes are all used in some way or another. Of course, the grapes are also harvested!

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      • I’m certain that we never used the grape leaves, though I wish we did. I love dolmades. We had a neighbor, an Armenian, who would come over and harvest the leaves a couple times every Summer — under the watchful eye of my Grandpa. He could take the leaves but he better not touch the grapes. 🙂

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