It’s Garlic Scape Season!!! The Goddess loves, loves, loves these little curlicues from heaven that are in season right now, for the next 2-3 weeks. Scapes, as they are usually simply referred to, are the flower bud and its stem the garlic bulb produces in late spring. They are removed so the bulb will grow larger for fall harvest. There’s something about their delicate swan-like necks that culicue around each other…it’s magical, I tell you. Then, there’s the taste! I believe that the entire garlic plant, except the papery covering on garlic bulbs, is edible, which isn’t the case with many plants. We seem to either eat the roots, think carrots and potatoes, for example, or we eat the leaves (and/or fruit), think herbs and kale. There are exceptions, I’m sure…beets, cilantro and parsley immediately come to mind…I’m sure there are many more The Goddess hasn’t thought of, but really, there’s only some stuff she can stuff into her head. Sometimes, as in the case with rhubarb, the leaves will actually harm us, but the stems are wonderful and a true harbinger of spring.Scapes are the stem and the flower bud hard-neck garlic produces in late spring. They are delicious, but fleeting; their goodness is only around for 2-3 weeks. Garlic growers don’t want a flower. They want the plant to put all its lovely energy into producing the tastiest, most flavorful, most colossal bulb it can produce. They don’t want the plant to waste one ounce of energy to produce a blossom. Therefore, they cut that flower bud and its stem off…nip it in the bud, so to speak, then use it in all sorts of wonderful ways. Each bulb sends up one, or at least as far as I know, there’s only one per plant. If a bulb produces more than one scape, The Goddess wishes to prostrate herself before this plant, out of reverence for its procreative abilities! Scapes have a slightly more subtle, greener and fresher taste, than the garlic bulbs, but make no mistakes, it’s still garlic-y.
Scapes are, without a doubt, one of The Goddess’s absolute favorite flavoring ingredients to work with. They are so fleeting, and that may be some of the appeal, but the flavor…oh, the flavor. It’s a bit grassy; it’s a bit sweet; it’s garlicky. It’s dynamic and delicate, all at the same time.
The most obvious, and one of the best uses of scapes, is to make scape pesto. Dorie Greenspan’s “Garlic Scape and Almond Pesto” is classic, delicious and simple to make. Dorie has an incredible gift for putting flavors together. Do toast the almonds first, as she suggests, which adds depth of flavor to your final pesto. You can freeze this, but it never seems as good as when you’ve just made it, so indulge.
Scape butter is also not to be forgotten…cut 2-3 scapes into pieces, toss them into the food processor, whirl until very finely minced—just before they turn into a paste, then drop in 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter, whirl again, scrape the whole mess onto some plastic wrap and roll up. Chill. When cold, either freeze or cut into 1/4-inch slices, let the slice melt over vegetables or meat. Today, it’s going to be nicely grilled steaks…Yum!
Other ways to use scapes—add to scrambled eggs or omelets, potato soup or vichyssoise, stir them into guacamole, purée them with olive oil and use to make garlic bread or toasts, sauté them with asparagus and peas, or add them to stir-fried anything. You see how flexible these little gems are…garlic just keeps on giving, doesn’t it?
So this is what I did with my bunch of scapes, other than the butter and pesto, of course. I made:
Tortellini with Lemon-Scape Sauce (this is more or less what I was going to do, except I would use tortellini) and Peanut Noodles with Scapes (you’ll get this basic recipe later) are also excellent, but I didn’t get to those. Later, maybe. No matter how you look at it, it’s quite the culinary land”scape”. Sorry….
I got my scapes from The Green-Thumbed Engineer or, if you don’t have such a kind and generous supplier, many farmer’s markets have them and if you are lucky enough to live near Granby, Connecticut, The Garlic Farm has them by the arm load. They have other great produce all summer long, too. But, scapes are there right now; don’t miss out on them. I’m off to make some scape butter to melt over that nice piece of steak I mentioned earlier…GO GET SOME SCAPES TODAY!!!!