Leaf wrapping food is a technique which has no doubt been used since not long after the dawn of cooking. The leaf generally serves several purposes. Firstly, it keeps the food in one bundle if it is grainy or fragile. Secondly, the right leaf can add its flavour to the food being cooked. The moisture in the leaf also allows a steaming effect whilst it can also serve to keep ash off the food.
It's even a technique favoured by Ray Mears in his wild food series, as you can see from 3:47 onwards in the video below.
The technique is used in a variety of modern day food, perhaps the best known being the Greek dolma dishes wrapped in vine leaves. There are a variety of east Asian dishes using pandan leaves, banana leaves and reed leaves. There are whole page of natural versions from around the world, together with a few that are man made, at the Cook's Thesaurus.
What's made me all think of this is watching my wife making golabki, a Polish dish that would translate as little pigeons. She's posting it on her blog at http://home-made-happiness.blogspot.com/ . In essence they are little parcels of minced pork and boiled rice, wrapped in a cabbage leaf, which are steamed in a pan - a temporary lid of other cabbage leaves can be added to keep in the moisture.
What To Do
The easiest introduction to this variety of cooking is one I often used as an American Civil war reenactor - namely corn on the cob. The corn is simply put in the hot ashes or coals whilst still wrapped in its husk. The corn then steams inside the leaves and most of the corn silk should just burn off. It's very juicy when finished - we did used to use a bayonet to turn them with but you could do just as well with a metal fork or even a sharpened stick.
In this part of Europe burdock leaves are a good idea - you may need to wilt them quickly over a fire but otherwise they're easy to use as seen in this video below.
Of course, it's not just burdock that can be used. One variety of dock, Rumex obtusifolius, was known as butter dock as it was used to wrap pats of butter in to help keep them. Any non-poisonous broad leaf could be used, though some might affect the final flavour. Remember that lots of leaves will contain less tannin early in the year and
A Fantastic Idea
For those of us of a more Tokleinesque persuasion there's always the question of Lembas bread. Whilst I've not many many people who love hard tack or hard biscuits I have known someone give it to a teething baby - not exactly light and delicious stuff though. The Geeky chef has tried a kitchen recipe which is interesting but far from bushcrafty. At the other end of the spectrum in practicality in the woods is Kindling forest school's take on the idea - a honey macaroon wrapped in a hazel leaf!
The book Abundant Living in the Coming Age of the Tree lists several tree leaves for direct consumption, beech, hawthorn, lime and chestnut. The book is available free from this Permaculture shop.
Blogs I Read