This Memorial Day weekend, along side the greens, turnips, carrots, young rutabaga, green onions and radishes at our corpulent, late-spring Saturday Farmers Market here in Santa Fe, New Mexico (a much better tourist attraction than the area’s fabled art gallery scene) was something we didn’t see much of not so many years ago: garlic scapes. When we first noticed them at our then-local farmers market in Bozeman, MT a couple years back, we thought the vendor was exercising some creative marketing by offering a product that otherwise might go to waste. Turns out the garlic scape is a wonderful spring bounty whose harvest not only encourages the growth of garlic bulbs but, when harvested early enough, tastes great, too. And, it’s good for you!
Garlic scapes are the curling, non-flowering “flower” stalks of garlic plants that appear a few weeks after the first leaves. Growers usually pinch them off to encourage larger bulb growth. But in some Mediterranean gardening cultures where little is traditionally wasted, the garlic scape has been used to flavor early-season dishes ahead of the garlic harvest. American growers have slowly caught on and in the last few years, every gourmand worth her designer sea salt has gotten into the act. Don’t believe me? Here are articles from The New York Times and Bon Appetit to prove it.
Scapes are best taken from Carpathian, German Red, Spanish Roja and other hard-necked garlics out of the Rocombole family. Harvest them early as the stems will become woody and their flavor more pronounced and bitter later on. What to do with them? We started adding them to stir fry with great results. If you want to add them to omelettes, sauté them gently first. They also go well in bean dips and vinaigrettes. Sautéed whole in olive oil, their circling shape adds interest — and flavor — to any plate. Here’s seven recipes that include them.