The Milkweed Diaries

Friday, June 5, 2009

Bring the Scapes!!!

Every Spring around this time, the modest, unadorned, hearty hardneck garlic plants that have been stoutly soldiering along since October become for a brief moment the most glamourous and exotic plants in the garden. Rising above their plain, strappy, green leaves are suddenly: SCAPES!

Serpentine, delicate, gorgeous and elegant, garlic scapes are the flowering stalks of hardneck garlic plants. They curl and spiral up and out from the plant, with a smooth, green, snake-like grace.

The flavor of scapes is a pure, intense, garlicky burst of spring green. We've eaten them all kind of ways: sauteed in butter, mixed in a stir fry, finely chopped raw in a green salad or with grated beets and carrots.

I would love garlic scapes even if they were common and abundant over a long season. But the fact that they can only be had for a short window of time, and a time before much else in the garden is producing heavily, makes them all the more precious and delightful.

It is good to pick the scapes as soon after they appear as possible so that the garlic plants won't spend energy flowering and will instead put all of their spring plant juju into growing large bulbs. Seeing as how we planted 1,500 garlic plants last fall, we have a lot of scapes to harvest and quick. Thus, we are cutting scapes fast and furious these days, and coming up with new scape recipes pretty much every day.

Christopher with some of the scapes we harvested last evening.

MF dropped by last eve just in time to help cut scapes (and squish a few potato beetle egg clusters), and Sandi came over later for dinner and scape escapades. We made pesto (see recipe below) and feasted on scapes until it felt like we were exuding garlic juice out of every pore.

Here are some of my favorite new ways to eat scapes:

Garlic Scape Pesto

I cannot describe how good this is. We ate it on pasta, but I also downed a few spoonfuls straight. It is a bright green, full-on, intense garlic experience.
  • A whole bunch of raw garlic scapes
  • A handful of mild greens (we used chard) if desired
  • Walnuts, pine nuts, or sunflower seeds (we used walnuts)
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Parmesan or Asiago cheese (optional - we made a vegan batch and a cheesy batch)
Throw everything in the food processor and pulverize to desired pesto texture. Enjoy!

Sandi gets her pesto groove on

Garlic Scape Risotto

So creamy and garlicky and delicious!
  • A handful of garlic scapes
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 4-5 cups stock or water
  • Parmesan, Asiago, or another hard cheese, grated
  • Salt, pepper, olive oil, and butter
Chop garlic scapes into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces. Saute in butter and olive oil (about 2 Tbs of each) until soft. Add arborio rice and continue to saute for a few minutes until the rice is
slightly toasted.

Add 1 cup of water or stock and stir. Stir. Stir. Stir. This is the key to a creamy risotto. Keep stirring and cooking over low to medium heat until all of the first cup of water or stock is absorbed. Add another cup of liquid and repeat. Stir constantly. Cook until water is absorbed.

Continue adding liquid a cup at a time and stirring, stirring, stirring until you have a super-creamy risotto. At this point, I added a tablespoon or so of pureed sweet pepper to the mix, but that is optional. About 5 minutes before serving, add 3/4 cup grated cheese.


Lastly, I am trying a brine pickle with some of the scapes.

I chopped them up and layered them with salt in a ceramic crock (the first ferment of the season!), covered them with salty water and am now watching and waiting to see if they will ferment into a pickled, garlicky condiment of some sort. It seems like it will have to be good.

Anyone have other ideas of ways to eat scapes? We still have hundreds to consume!

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