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Garlic Scapes: Get this garlicky goodness

Jun 30th, 2012 | By | Category: Cooking

by Jessamyn Tuttle

It’s that time of year that you might be seeing odd little curly green bundles in your CSA box or at the farmer’s market marked “garlic scapes.” What are they and what do you do with them?

Scapes resemble the texture of asparagus or a fresh green bean, but taste likefresh green garlic. PHOTO BY JESSAMYN TUTTLE

If you’ve ever grown garlic, you probably know that it comes in two main types, hardneck and softneck. Softneck, as the name implies, puts up a stalk that lacks a hard core. The heads tend to keep well after curing, and the tops are easy to braid for storage. Hardneck varieties, which have a tough core running through the center of the stalk, don’t keep as well but are often easier to peel (and have a great flavor!) and about a month before harvest a green shoot arises out of the leaf stalk. This is the scape, and it curls as it grows, creating multiple loops, with a narrow flower bud at the tip. Most garlic growers cut these off, to keep energy in the maturing bulb, while others let them bloom to get seed from the bulbils. I always used to cut off and compost the scapes before I found out that they’re entirely edible. Now I wait every year for those thin green tips to curl around before I snip them off and bring them inside to eat.

The texture of the scapes is rather like asparagus or a fresh green bean, and they can be treated similarly. You can steam them whole, grill them, or chop them up and sauté them; the flavor is like fresh green garlic but not overly pungent. I really enjoy tossing them with olive oil and salt and tossing them on a hot grill until they’re slightly charred, then pulling off the little flower sheath (which is fibrous) and eating the rest like asparagus. My other favorite thing to do with scapes is to make pesto, where the scape replaces both the basil and the garlic. You can also puree them into dips, like white bean dip or hummus, or pickle them like green beans.

Pesto made from garlic scapes is excellent on pasta, and it goes really nicely with the first fava beans of the season, but I particularly love it as a sandwich spread. It freezes really well if you leave out the cheese. Proportions can all be adjusted to your own taste.

Pickled garlic scapes. PHOTO BY JESSAMYN TUTTLE

The season is very short for garlic scapes, but they keep for weeks in the fridge and the pesto freezes very well, so stock up when you see them!

Garlic Scape Pesto

Ingredients

½ cup olive oil

½ cup Parmesan cheese

¼ cup toasted pine nuts or

almonds

1 bunch of garlic scapes (about a dozen)

salt and pepper

Directions

Trim the scapes and chop them into small pieces. Put them in a food processor with the pine nuts, cheese and oil and process until as smooth as you want it. Add salt and pepper to taste. Use within a couple of days or freeze.

White Bean and Garlic Scape Dip

I love white bean dips as an alternative to hummus. You could liven up this one with fresh herbs (sage or parsley are good), lemon zest, or even more garlic scapes.

Ingredients

4 or 5 garlic scapes, trimmed and chopped

Juice of 1 lemon

1 can of white beans or about 2 cups of cooked ones

4 tablespoons of olive oil (or more to taste)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a food processor pulse the scapes, salt, pepper, any fresh herbs you have, and lemon juice. Drain the beans and pour them in, pulsing until mostly smooth. Add the olive oil in a stream with the processor running and blend until the texture is where you want it. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve on bread, pita, toasts, crackers or with vegetables.

Pickled Garlic Scapes

This recipe is based on one from Marisa McClellan of the blog Food in Jars, but you can use your favorite pickled green bean recipe.

Ingredients

about a pound of garlic scapes

2 teaspoons dill seed

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

2 cups apple cider vinegar

2 cups water

2 tablespoons fine salt

Directions

Thoroughly clean your jars, either one quart jar or two pints. Trim the ends of the scapes, making sure to remove the fibrous blossom sheath, and cut them into lengths that will fit in your jars. Place the dill and black peppercorns in the jars and pack the trimmed scapes in on top.

Combine the vinegar, water and salt in a pot and bring to a boil. Slowly pour the hot brine over the garlic scapes, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Once the jar is full, tap the jar lightly to dislodge any air bubbles. Check the headspace again and add more brine if necessary.

If you want to can your pickles, wipe the rim, apply the jar lid and ring, and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. If you don’t bother with the hot water bath, simply put on a lid and refrigerate. Let the pickles cure for at least a week before eating. They will last for several weeks in the refrigerator.

Published in the July 2012 issue of Grow Northwest magazine

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