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Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Great (Garlic) Es-Scape!


A few years ago, I heard about something called garlic scapes. I had never actually seen them, or had the opportunity to try them. They are never offered at our local Webb City Farmers Market. I inquired from a vendor family about them. They told me they tried offering them at the market last spring, but no one had any clue what they were or how to utilize them, so they went unsold.

A friend of my wife had posted on Facebook about getting her hands on some scapes at the Freight House Farmers Market in Davenport, Iowa. I had my wife find out the name of the vendor, and I was lucky enough to get my hands on some scapes the next weekend while visiting her family in Davenport, from One Acre Produce. My mind ran wild with ideas on how to use these gems!

How about a little information on what garlic scapes actually are? 




Garlic scapes are the leafless stem that shoots up from the garlic bulb that produces the flower of the garlic plant. When first emerging, the scape curls, with a slight bulge toward the top of the stem. To achieve the best growth and formation of the garlic head, and cloves, these scapes need trimmed within a couple of weeks of appearance. Many farmers take advantage of these scapes and sell to the "in-the-know" culinarians, or foodies, at local farmer markets. Many others, including the southwest Missouri farmers, can't find a viable market for these, and will just utilize them in their kitchens, or enhance their compost piles. Scapes become available only one time a year: late spring and early summer. A very short-lived season, coupled with great versatility, make garlic scapes a highly sought after item in many markets. 


The scapes are only truly good when curled, with the very slight bulge (see above picture). Once they begin to straighten, or flower, they become too woody, and lose much of the desired flavors. A week or so ago, I found the scapes pictured below, at the local farmers market. Very cheaply priced, I thought I would grab a small bundle to see if there was any good in them.... I can tell you... NO! 




The flavor within a garlic scape can be described as a cross between a scallion, or green onion, and garlic. I'm not gonna lie to you... it is sharply garlic. You know... the kind of garlic that bites your tongue. However, I am from the school of thought about garlic never being too much. One of my favorite quotes is by Emeril Lagasse: "Once I was asked, 'Emeril, how much garlic is too much?' I replied... 'Dunno... ain't been there, yet!'"  If you eat garlic scapes, definitely double, triple, up on breath mints, that day! 


Some preparations really calm down some of the bite of the scapes. As I said before, garlic scapes are very versatile. Here are just a few ideas of things you could do with garlic scapes: 

  • chop into short lengths and saut√© them as a side dish
  • chop them and toss them raw into salads
  • chop into short lengths and toss into a stir fry
  • toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and grill them
  • substitute them for garlic in hummus recipes
  • use them as an aromatic herb in recipes
  • pickle them and store them for months to come
  • a delicious, yet unusual preparation as a garlic scape tart
  • a garlic scape pesto
When preparing garlic scapes for cooking, be sure to trim off the tops, just below the bulge. I used my two bundles to prepare a garlic scape pesto. As with any other pesto, there are a lot of ways to prepare it. For garlic scape pesto, you could use the scapes as a substitute for basil, or mix half and half with some herb, such as basil, dill, arugula, spinach, or chervil. For the nut component of the recipe, you could use pine nuts or walnuts. Below is the pesto recipe I used, and adjusted accordingly to my desired outcome. 



Garlic Scape Pesto


3/4 cups chopped scapes
1/4 cups pine nuts
juice & zest of 1/2 lemon
3/4 teaspoon salt
black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


1.  In a small saut√© pan, over medium heat, toast the pine nuts. Constantly stir, or toss, to get a very light  
     golden hue to the pine nuts. Usually when you begin to smell them, they are done. Set aside and allow to 
     cool for a few minutes. 
2.  Place toasted pine nuts, scapes, lemon juice & zest, salt and pepper into the bowl of a food processor, 
     pulsing until all chopped and incorporated well. 
3.  Begin drizzling in the olive oil as you continue to pulse, or run, the processor. 
4.  Scrape the pesto into a bowl, and stir in the Parmesan cheese. 


Frank's Notes:
1. Pesto can be frozen. If you are going to freeze the pesto, do not add the Parmesan cheese until you are 
    ready to thaw and serve the pesto. 
2. Freezing will mellow the sharp garlic flavor of the scapes in the pesto. I served mine fresh, but it did have a 
    substantial bite, at first. The longer it sat in the refrigerator, the more mellow it became. 
3. This pesto can be served on toasted breads, or tossed in with hot pasta. It can also be tossed in with a 
    cream sauce for pasta. A small round of toasted baguette, topped with some pesto, and finally topped 
    with a grilled shrimp makes for some amazingly simple, yet elegant appetizers at a gathering. 


I realize that scapes are out of season, now. I just wanted to be able to share with you, my loyal followers and readers, my great scape discovery, this year. I will be sure to revisit the topic in the spring, in plenty of time for you to be able to seek out some scapes, and try your hand at your own scape discoveries! 


Your turn: I want to hear some feedback from you guys. Have you heard of scapes before? Have you cooked with scapes before? Let me know... Let me know if you have a favorite preparation for garlic scapes! 



3 comments:

  1. good info, Frank!! I was wondering what else you could use them before. I am surely going to get some next spring from One Acre Produce & try them - I think they would really be good just tossed with some pasta, too. Love, Love, Love that garlic!! Good photos, too.

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  2. I'm planning on trying my hand at growing garlic next season, so I'll definitely keep this in mind if I get some scapes!

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