Stuffed vine leaves are a popular traditional Cypriot dish and we call them "koupepia". Vine leaves have been used in Greek cooking since ancient times.
The time for cutting the leaves is between 5th April and 15th May.
Go into the vineyards and cut each one from the stalk carefully.
You should be picking in the afternoon when the leaves are dry. Harvesting is easy by hand or with scissors. Ignore the leaves that have holes or tears in them, they’re useless for stuffing.
When you go home place one above the other in batches and when you reach approximately a hundred leaves put them in a plastic bag and place them in the freezer without washing them.
Which leaves should be collected:
First, you must know in which vineyards you must gather the leaves and only with experience will your eye distinguish the different varieties. The varieties you want are the "traditional black" and the "sultanas". Don't collect from other varieties because they are no or as flavourful.
The size of the leaves is neither too big nor too small and has to be tender so you can fill the minced meat with rice easily. You can feel the texture that is little more mature but it's not tough for picking. Also gather large leaves separate from the ones that you want to eat, because we put those in the bottom of the pan to prevent the food from sticking.
In the old days the villagers who did not have refrigerators to preserve, took the leaves one by one passed through threads, making a giant necklace out of them then hanging them out to dry. When people were ready to cook them, they put them in boiling water to soften them, ready to be stuffed for our big pots of vine leaf rolls!
Things to watch out for:
1) Avoid vineyards that have ben sprayed with pesticides. Ask someone who knows the vineyards.
2) When you go back home after you have picked your leaves, you should immediately remove them from the bag and lay them out to breathe; otherwise they will shrivel up.
Watch this video to see how it’s done.
Want to know how to cook Koupepia?