Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Stuffed Grape Leaves


     If you have been following me for any length of time, you might have come to the conclusion that I love food. Well, you wouldn’t be wrong about that. I don’t just love food, I love experiencing food from any and every culture I encounter. I even have an entire bookshelf devoted to cookbooks that include recipes from around the world and from ancient history. Some of my favorite recipes come from the Middle East, and this is one of my favorites. 

     In Greece, they are called Dolmades, in Turkey, they are called Dolmas, and in Lebanon, they are called Warak Enab. But here, we simply refer to this amazing appetizer as Stuffed Grape Leaves. Traditionally, these are served either hot or cold and for just about any occasion. I like to keep them in my fridge for a healthy and savory snack. But they do take a lot of time and effort. Though if you recruit your friends and/or family to help roll them, it goes by much faster. 

     Basic Recipe for Stuffing Grape Leaves

1 jar Grape Leaves about 60-70 in brine

Stuffing of your choice (recipes below)

½ cup Olive Oil

5-6 cups Water

¾ cup Lemon Juice

Prep Grape Leaves & Stuffing

    1. Remove the grape leaves from the jar, and soak them in a large bowl of boiling hot water for a few minutes. Drain the grape leaves in a colander and stack them on a plate.

    2. Prepare your stuffing (recipes below).

    3. Don’t forget to soak your rice in water for 15 minutes before preparing your stuffing.

Stuff & Wrap Grape Leaves

    1. To stuff and roll the grape leaves, lay a grape leaf flat on a cutting board, scoop out a little less than 1 teaspoon of the rice mixture into the center of the grape leaf.

    2. Carefully fold in the sides and loosely roll it like you would when making a wrap. Repeat until all the stuffing has been used and place the wrapped grape leaves on a tray while wrapping. It will make about 60 rolls.

Cook the Stuffed Grape Leaves

    1. Line the bottom of a large pot with sliced tomatoes (sliced potatoes are also a good option) and season with salt/pepper.

    2. Neatly arrange the stuffed and rolled grape leaves in rows, alternating directions, to completely cover the circumference of the pot. Make sure to tightly pack them in the pot to prevent them from floating up and unwrapping during cooking.

    3. Drizzle each layer with olive oil (you’ll need about ½ cup for the whole opt) and season with salt and pepper to taste.

    4. Place a plate upside down on top of the grape leaves in the pot. Next use something to weigh it down (a second plate works well or a bowl full of water). This will hold down the grape leaves in place, and prevent floating while they are cooking.

    5. Add enough water (about 5-6 cups) to completely cover the grape leaves and the plate. Then cover the pot and cook on medium heat for 30 minutes, until most of the water is absorbed and the rice is cooked.

    6. Add ¾ cup lemon juice on top of the grape leaves, then cook on low heat for an additional 45 minutes.

    7. Remove from heat and let rest for 30 minutes. Transfer to a dish and enjoy warm or at room temperature.

My Tips  

Rice- Most people use white rice for their grape leaves because it doesn’t take as long to cook. Using brown rice risks overcooking the leaves. If you want to give brown rice a go, try Thai or Basmati Brown Rice, both of which have shorter cooking times.

Fresh Grape Leaves- If you’re lucky enough to know someone that grows grapes, or are able to harvest your own. Blanch fresh leaves in boiling water for 5 minutes. This will make them much easier to roll.

Stuffing the Leaves- Don’t roll your leaves too tight or add too much stuffing. You’re rolling uncooked rice which will expand as it cooks. While we all love the stuffing, we don’t want it to expand too much and cause a huge mess.

Lining the Bottom of the Pot- Don’t forget to line the bottom of your cooking pot before putting the grape leaves in to cook. If you don’t then you risk burning the bottom layer of grape leaves. Some traditional things used to do this include sliced tomatoes, sliced onions, sliced potatoes, more grape leaves, and the occasional rack of lamb (obviously not a vegetarian option).

Aren’t These Usually Made With Meat?- Yes and no. Each Mediterranean country has it’s own variety of traditional recipes for this dish. Some countries have multiple recipes. I prefer the Lebanese styles, both the traditional vegetarian stuffing and the traditional lamb/beef stuffing, so that’s what I based these recipes on.

And now, on to the stuffing recipes!


1. Traditional Vegetarian Stuffing

     Made with short-grain rice, tomatoes, parsley, green onions, green peppers, garlic and crushed red pepper, with lemon juice and olive oil. There are quite a few variations of this recipe from different countries, but this traditional Lebanese recipe is my favorite.

Traditional Vegetarian Stuffing

2 cups Short Grain Rice, pre-soaked for 15 minutes

1 large Tomato, finely chopped

1 bunch Parsley, finely chopped

1 bunch Green Onions, finely chopped

¼ Green Pepper, finely chopped

2 cloves Garlic, minced

Salt and Pepper to taste

¼ cup Olive Oil, divided


     Combine the rice, tomatoes, parsley, green onions, green peppers, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle 1/4 cup of the olive oil over the mixture. Toss well to combine. 

2. Some Like It Hot!

     Spicy food can be such a treat! This recipe is such a great alternative to the traditional one without losing any of the traditional flavors. This one is especially great served with plain Yogurt.

Hot and Spicy Stuffing

2 cups Short Grain Rice, pre-soaked for 15 minutes

1 large Tomato, finely chopped

1 bunch Parsley, finely chopped

1 medium Red Onion, finely chopped

1 Jalapeno (or try a hotter pepper for more heat), finely chopped

2 cloves Garlic, minced

½ teaspoon Cayenne, ground

Salt and Pepper to taste

¼ cup Olive Oil, divided


     Combine the rice, tomato, parsley, red onion, peppers, garlic, and cayenne. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle 1/4 cup of the olive oil over the mixture. Toss well to combine. 

3. Lovely Lentils

     This version uses Lentils to give a nice protein boost. 

Lentil Stuffing

1 cup Short Grain Rice, pre-soaked for 15 minutes

1 cup Green Lentils, pre-soaked for 15 minutes

1 bunch Parsley, finely chopped

1 medium Yellow Onion, finely chopped

2 cloves Garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon Cumin, ground

¼ teaspoon Cayenne, ground

Salt and Pepper to taste

¼ cup Olive Oil, divided


     Combine the rice, lentils, parsley, yellow onion, peppers, garlic, cumin, and cayenne. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle 1/4 cup of the olive oil over the mixture. Toss well to combine. 

     If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for updates. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Frog Fruit


     Growing up as a tomboy in Florida, I often played outside. I was always in trees, playing in the dirt, or even making flower chains with our native wildflowers. One of the flowers I used for these chains was Frog Fruit or Phyla nodiflora.

     Frog Fruit is a creeping herb often used as a ground cover. It’s stems extend from 15 to 30 centimeters and it tends to root at the nodes. The leaves are numerous, nearly without stalks, obovate, 1 to 2.5 centimeters long, with a blunt or rounded tip, with sharply toothed margins on the upper half, and a wedge-shaped base. The flowers are very small, pink or white, crowded in ovoid or cylindric spikes, 1 to 2.5 centimeters long, and about 6 millimeters in diameter. The corolla consists of a slender and cylindric tube, about 3 millimeters long, with a limb that is 2.5 millimeters wide, opening at the apex as it lengthens. Spikes appear at the ends of stalks, growing singly from the axils of the leaves. 

     We have four species here in Florida. Phyla stoechadifolia is a small, woody shrub that grows up to 2 feet tall. P. lanceolata is fairly rare and only found in a few counties (Calhoun, Escambia, Gadsden, Jackson, and Liberty), all of which are in North Florida. It also only really blooms during Spring and early Summer. P. fruticosa is even rarer and has only been found in a single county in Florida, Miami-Dade. The most commonly found species in Florida is Phyla nodiflora. This plant used to be in the Lippia genus, so you will occasionally find information about Lippia nodiflora, just know that it’s the same plant. The Phyla genus is found within the Verbenaceae or Verbena family, which is in the Lamiales order. The same order where the Lamiaceae or Mint family is found. So these herbs are cousins to mint, lavender, and all the Lamiaceae family herbs.

     Frog Fruit is an important plant for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it is an important larval host for a number of our native pollinators. The most common butterflies that depend on Frog Fruit are the Phaon Crescent (Phyciodes phaon), White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae), Barred Sulphur (Eurema daira), and Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia). It’s also an important food source for an even larger number of native bees, butterflies, and other pollinators here in Florida. 

     If you follow me on social media, you might know that I recently shot a video all about this little flower. Check it out here.

Medicinal Uses:

Common Names- Frog Fruit, Turkey Tangle Fogfruit, Match Head, Match Flower, Creeping Lip, Purple Lippa, Sawtooth Frogfruit, Turkey Tangle, Cape Weed

Scientific Name- Phyla fruticosa, P. lanceolata, P. nodiflora, and P. stoechadifolia. 

Edibility- The leaves are often used as a tea substitute, though it does have a “grassy” taste. The leaves are edible cooked. It’s often recommended to boil them.

Summary of Actions- Alexeteric, Analgesic, Anodyne, Anthelmintic, Antibacterial, Antifungal, Anti-inflammatory, Antimicrobial, Antioxidant, Antipyretic, Antiseptic, Antitumor, Antitussive, Anti-urolithiatic, Aphrodisiac, Astringent, Carminative, Demulcent, Deobstruent, Diuretic, Emmenagogue, Febrifuge, Nociceptive, Parasiticide, Refrigerant, Spasmolytic

Parts Used- The whole plant is used.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)- Known as Guo Jiang Teng, this herb Clears Wind-Heat. Helping to treat a variety of blood diseases, fevers, malaria, vertigo, fainting, and thirst. It is also used for diarrhea, dysentery, gonorrhea, boils, abscesses, herpes, and burning sensations during urination.

Ayurveda- Known as Jalpapli, an infusion of this herb is given to women after childbirth to help stimulate healing. It also Clears Heat and Resists Poison. It’s often used in similar ways to it’s used in TCM.

Digestion- Phyla nodiflora is a great bitter herb, helping to improve digestion and ease stomach troubles. The juice of the root is often used as a bitter tonic and to ease gastric irritation. An infusion of the leaves and/or stalks is often given to children for “tummy upsets.” A decoction or infusion of the whole plant can also be helpful for gastric ulcers.

Kidney Stones- Frog Fruit has amazing anti-urolithiatic properties, which helps to prevent the formation of kidney stones. However, it not only prevents kidney stone formation but it also effectively treats existing stones. 

Fever, Cold, & Cough- The juice of this herb is used to help cool down those with fevers, especially in the case of malaria. The whole plant can also be steamed and inhaled to help treat cough and the common cold.

Wound Care, Burns, & Boils- Phyla nodiflora has wonderful antibacterial properties. Combined with its tendency to speed up healing, this makes it an ideal plant for wounds. It’s traditionally applied as a poultice and can also be used to soothe burns as it also has cooling, or demulcent, properties. A paste from the fresh plant can also be applied to boils as a suppurant, helping them come to a head and heal faster.

Skin Care- A ground paste of the leaves is a traditional treatment for acne and pimples. It is also used to treat chickenpox, dermatosis, eczema, leprosy, scabies, and minor wounds.

Dandruff- There are two traditional treatments for dandruff that use Frog Fruit. 

    • Hair Oil - boil coconut oil with fresh Frog Fruit leaves until it loses its water content. Remove from heat, cool, and strain. Use it as a hair oil to get rid of dandruff, also doubles as a moisturizing oil treatment. Massage it onto the scalp and leave it on for 2 hours before rinsing/washing.

    • Hair Pack - take Frog Fruit powder (enough to make a paste to cover the whole head) in a bowl, add in enough rice water and 1/4 tsp of coconut oil to it and apply as a hair pack. Wait for 30 minutes before washing. 

Joint Pain- Frog Fruit has amazing anti-inflammatory properties. A poultice can be used for treating joint pain and stiffness. Simply apply the poultice to the afflicted joint and elevate it for 30 minutes.

Hemorrhoids- This herb is a traditional remedy for hemorrhoids. Crush the fresh plant, mix it with water, and drain. This is typically taken on an empty stomach daily for about one week.

Diabetes- Phyla nodiflora has anti-diabetic properties. Helping to lower blood sugar. This makes it a very effective natural remedy for reducing blood sugar levels. It’s also a diuretic, helping to reduce water retention which can also help with diabetes.

Cautions, Contraindications, and Warnings- Since this herb does have an effect on insulin levels, consult with your doctor prior to adding it into your daily routine if you are already taking diabetic medications or are a diabetic. Avoid this herb if you are pregnant.

     I only included a basic introduction to this wonderful Florida native. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram or updates on my adventures in Nature. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!

Now Offering Backyard Tours! 

     Curious as to what your very own yard might contain? Contact herbalist Leann Hill at BatLadyHerbals@gmail.com for more information!


7 Top Medicinal Uses of Phyla Nodiflora: Wild Turmeric: https://www.wildturmeric.net/phyla-nodiflora-poduthalai-medicinal-uses-health-benefits/ 

A Review on Phyla nodiflora Linn. A Wild Wetland Medicinal Herb: Global Research Online: http://globalresearchonline.net/journalcontents/v20-1/11.pdf 

Busbusi: Philippine Medicinal Plants: http://www.stuartxchange.com/Busbusi.html

Frog Fruit: Natural medicinal Herbs: http://www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/p/phyla-nodiflora=frogfruit.php 

Frog Fruit or Match Head?: Eat The Weeds: http://www.eattheweeds.com/frog-fruit-or-match-head/ 

Phyla Nodiflora: Folk Medicine Sindh: http://folkmedsindh.com.pk/phyla-nodiflora-l/

Phyla Nodiflora: Herbpathy: https://herbpathy.com/Uses-and-Benefits-of-Phyla-Nodiflora-Cid1173 

Phyla Nodiflora: Plants for a Future: https://pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?latinname=Phyla+nodiflora 

Phyla Nodiflora: Useful Tropical Plants: http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Phyla+nodiflora 

Phyla Nodiflora, Jalapippali: Medicine Traditions: https://www.medicinetraditions.com/phyla-nodiflora-jalapippali.html 


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     Welcome to Bat Lady Herbals.  I have been fascinated by herbs and various herbal uses for quite a few years now.  Plants are amazing t...