Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Harvesting and using garlic scapes

Late spring is the time when you can find garlic scapes at the farmers market, or if you grow garlic you get an extra crop.  The scape is the seed head that emerges from the center of the garlic leaf stalk on hardneck varieties.  If left in its place it will flower, and produce bulbils (small clove like seeds).  There is a debate among garlic growers as to whether or not removing the scape will produce a larger bulb or not.  In my personal experience I have not seen a difference between a garlic bulb with or without the scape being removed.  If you choose to remove them you can cut them off with a knife or simply pull directly up on the scape and it will break off where it wants to break off and now you can get excited over the size of the scape you can pull out!!Or unreasonably upset when you get a small one.

That being said what do you do with a garlic scape now that you have it.  We use the scapes the same way you use garlic to season any dish, but the scape can also be used as a vegetable, as it has the texture of asparagus.  Scapes are excellent simply grilled with olive oil and sea salt, or eaten raw finely diced on a salad.

This is a fresh pea and mint salad with garlic scapes.  Scapes are also a great topping on white pizza, just leave them whole and lay across the pizza, or made into a savory jelly.  I use the  Ball Blue Book garlic jelly recipe and replace the garlic cloves with garlic scapes. 
Scapes are also popular as the key ingredient in a Pesto alternative, here is my recipe for Garlic scape and Lambs quarter pesto.

Garlic Scape and Lambs Quarter Pesto*

2 Cups lambs quarter leaves*

1 Cup basil

1/2 Cup toasted walnuts

1/2 Cup grated parmesan cheese

1 dozen garlic scapes

1/4 Cup olive oil

black pepper to taste

enough water to start blender.

Rinse lambs quarter, basil, and scapes and roughly chop.
Toast walnuts.
Add all ingredients to blender with enough water to get it blending, blend until smooth, add more water or oil as necessary.

This yields about 1 pint of pesto concentrate, I put mine into small jars and freeze for later use.  When I want to use some I reheat it with more olive oil and top pasta or grilled summer vegetables.

* Lambs quarter also known as goosefoot is a wild relative of spinach, so spinach could be used as a replacement.

So if you grow your own garlic or see scapes at your local farmers market, don't be afraid to experiment in the kitchen with this unique and seasonal product.