The other day I was talking to my aunt in Baku over skype and she asked me what I had cooked for the day.
“Dolma,” I exclaimed.
“From canned grape leaves?”
“Why? From fresh,” I said happily.
“What? Fresh leaves?” Clearly, my aunt was shocked. “This time of year?”
I teased her saying how our grapevine is sprawling and how we pick its leaves often and make dolma and how delicious dolma from fresh grape leaves is (which she knows, of course, but I got bitten by a bragging bug at that very time), and how I preserve the fresh leaves that continue to grow abundantly, to use them in winter. My aunt sighed and said we were lucky to be able to do all that. But she will rejoice soon too, as she lives in a grape rich country where fresh grape leaves are especially flavorful.
This is how fresh grape leaves are kept fresh for years – packed inside plastic bottles! I brought these leaf-packed bottles from Baku – courtesy of some of my wonderful relatives.
You see, spring is being late this year in Azerbaijan. I hear it is still chilly and the days of making dolma from fresh vine leaves are lying far ahead, as there is just not enough sunshine to wake up the vines’ from winter’s sleep. Here in Long Beach, on the other hand, spring has come long ago, although the days are way chillier for a typical California spring. But still, the grapes are being nice to us and providing us with enough leaves to keep our ever growing dolma appetites sated. The grapevine, by the way, is courtesy of my father-in-law who planted it for us for both grapes and leaves, and we can’t thank him enough for this.