Stretching out over the driveway is a reach of wild grape vine. During daily walks to the mailbox I’ve been noting its growth. Its parent vine twists and climbs up a tangle of willow growing next to our drive. It does not have its own stout stem so it has evolved to pull itself higher against gravity using the anchor of other trees or structures. 

Mountain climbers hammer metal pitons into the cracks along their climbing route. These become anchors to affix their climbing ropes. 

Similarly wild grapes provide their own organic pitons. Slim green tendrils blindly reach out from the ascending vine and seek anchor points by snaking themselves around nearby tree branches, wires or any firm structure. Once anchored, the vine continues its steady sprint to the sun.

The vine I have been watching over the past week had boldly sent a new exploratory reach over the chasm of our driveway. New leaves, the solar collectors that make photosynthesis possible, add weight to the reaching vine and it is clearly losing its pathfinder advantage to gravity as it droops earthward. 

The vine’s stretch is something to behold. Like Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel masterpiece, Hands of God and Adam, the tip of the curling tendril appears to plead for connection.

Ultimately grape vines will summit in the canopy of a tree where it will spread its photosynthetic carpet of foliage. Sometimes the weight of the vines, foliage and fruit can pull a weakened limb out of a tree and then all comes crashing down. And once again the intrepid vine will snake its way to another nearby ladder.

Late spring or early summer is when the broad leaves can be gathered for stuffed grape leaf rolls. I collect tender leaves near the tip of the vine that are roughly four inches across. 

You can use your imagination in making the filling but I recently used cooked rice, shredded salmon, chopped shitake mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and caramelized onions with a couple of cloves of minced garlic and some other favorite spices. Nuts are also a nice option and chicken or lamb is also good.

We like to blanch the leaves for a moment to make them supple for easier rolling. You can also marinate grape leaves in olive oil, vinegar and salt and store in a wide mouthed jar in the fridge for future use. 

Remove the leaf stems, spoon a tablespoon of filling on the flattened leaf and roll it starting from the leaf base. Then fold the leaf sides towards the center covering the stuffing. Continue rolling the leaf towards its tip creating a short, cigar-shaped morsel. Apply a bit of olive oil to the grape rolls before eating. These are simple and delicious. 

I need to head up to the mailbox and make my daily observation of the futile effort of one bold grape vine. But hey, if you don’t dare go where no grape has gone before how does one reach out to new possibilities?

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