Let's talk about garlic scapes. They started popping up in my life a few years ago and now I savor the late spring/early summer treat. Garlic is a bulb that grows under ground. The great flavors developing below the surface are announced by a stalk that shoots up, waving a green flag a few feet above the soil: the garlic scape.Left to it's own devices, the top of the plant will bloom into a dandelion-like cloud. Lucky for us, you can cut down the top of the plant without harming the growing garlic below the surface. Garlic scapes are like an appetizer to your garlic harvest. OK, let's get down to it: what do you do with them? Garlic scapes have a garlic-y taste that's a bit more mild and somewhat sweeter than your go-to bulb of garlic. Scapes can be used in place of garlic in some recipes, but I think they're worth highlighting a bit more. Here are a few ways I like to eat them:
- Cut stalks down to short (~1/2 inch) pieces. Saute them (along with any other desired veggies) before mixing them into scrambled eggs or an omelet for an extra special breakfast.
- Slightly longer pieces (about 1 inch) are great in pasta. I recently sauteed them in olive oil with onions in a cast iron skillet, then added some greens (kale and arugula in this case) and frozen peas. Toss in some pasta and top with Parmesan cheese and you've got a delicious hot dinner or room-temperature pasta salad.
- Garlic scapes make excellent pesto and, like traditional pesto, leave plenty of room for experimentation. In a blender or cuisinart, combine garlic scapes with a mild nut (I usually use almonds or walnuts in place of the more-expensive pine nuts traditionally used in pesto), and enough olive oil to get a smooth texture. Add Parmesan cheese for richness (or at least some salt if you want to keep it vegan). Then you get to play! Add basil for a hint of traditional pesto flavor, or mix in other yummy greens. I was recently gifted a jar of amazing garlic scape and kale pesto by the publisher of Dirt Magazine.
Garlic scapes are only around for a short season, so don't let their alien look intimidate you. They're beautiful to look at, easy to use, and delicious to eat.