The great scape

Curls of green

By
May 29, 2012

In the first few months of the season, the thing I love most about the farmers market is that with each week, the list of available produce grows longer. Every Saturday morning holds new surprises as well as old favorites I’ve waited for since last season.

One of these old favorites is the garlic scape. A tender green shoot sent up from the root of hardneck garlic, a scape stalk looks like a curling, twisting green onion. (It’s similar to but not the same as green garlic, which is just immature garlic shoots.) The taste isn’t as strong as that of mature garlic; I call it “garlic lite.”

If left unattended, a garlic scape will form a small flower or bulb and eventually harden, turning as papery and gray as the harvested bulb. Gardeners usually snip the scape in order to focus more of the plant’s energy on the growing bulb. While some gardeners simply toss them in the compost bin, others have discovered just how delicious scapes can be. They usually make an appearance in the first week of June, and last a very short time.

garlic scapes
Garlic scapes.

When scouring the market for a perfect bunch of scapes, look for those that have hardly curled. (If cutting from your own garlic patch, try to snip before or just after that first curl. Never pull; always cut.) The longer and curlier the scapes become, the hotter and more intense their garlic flavor.

Aim for a scape that is no longer than eight inches. More mature scapes should be snipped at the bottom after picking, much like the tough end of asparagus. Young and tender scapes need almost no additional trimming. If present, the flowering bulb should be snipped as well, as it is much too delicate for cooking.

Preparing garlic scapes is a cinch. Their subtle flavor can be easily enhanced with a quick sauté or a brief moment on the grill, accompanied by a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of salt. They also pair well with browned butter and a squeeze of lemon.

The younger the scape is, the lighter the flavor. The youngest, most tender of the shoots can be quickly chopped and mixed raw into salad dressing, potato salad, or salsa. Substitute scapes for basil in your favorite pesto recipe, or mix into a fresh aïoli.

Larger, more mature scapes can be tossed into pasta, puréed and mixed with lemon and pepper for compound butter, or sliced and sautéed in a stir-fry.

With their sweet garlic flavor and short season, garlic scapes are sure to leave you wanting more. Consider freezing some scape purée, or even pickling scapes to tide you over until next year.

For the truly converted, prime garlic planting season isn’t until just before the first freeze. So you’ve got plenty of time to pick your favorite hardneck variety for your climate, then plant and cultivate your own patch for next June.

Related recipe: Garlic-Scape Pesto

Subscribe
Comments
There are no comments on this item
Add a comment

Think before you type

Culinate welcomes comments that are on-topic, clean, and courteous. For the benefit of the community we reserve the right to delete comments that contain advertising, personal attacks, profanity, or which are thinly disguised attempts to promote another website.

Please enter your comment

Format: Bare URLs are automatically linked; use this style: [http://www.example.com "place text to be linked here"] for prettier links. You may specify *bold* or _italic_ text. No HTML please.

Please identify yourself

Not a member? Sign up!

Please prove that you’re not a computer


Advertisement
Culinate 8

Kale in the raw

Eight versions of kale salad

Eight ways to spin everyone’s favorite salad.

Subscribe
Graze: Bites from the Site
First Person

The secret sharer

A father’s legacy

The Culinate Interview

Mollie Katzen

The vegetarian-cooking pioneer

Reviews

Down South

Barbecue, tamales, cocktails, and more

Local Flavors

A winter romesco sauce

Good on everything

Most Popular Articles

Editor’s Choice