Garlic Scapes Are In

Garlic scapes are the stalk and flower bud of the garlic plant. They emerge in June on hard-necked varieties, and start to curl around on themselves if not trimmed off promptly.

We’re picking garlic scapes in our garden this week — lots of them.  If you grow hard-necked varieties of garlic, you are familiar with the rush in June to cut them off the plants before the plants set seed,  stealing energy from the bulb growing under the soil.  Occasionally, soft-necked varieties of garlic will send out a scape.  These will be more delicate and less conspicuous than those on hard-necked garlic, and fall more in the category of shoots than real substance.  For reliable scapes, stick to hard-necked varieties.  Purveyors of seed stock will always indicate which type a particular variety of garlic is.

Until recently, we tossed scapes on our compost pile.  Then I discovered that I actually prefer the mild flavor of scapes to that of the pungent bulbs we grow.  If you wait until the scapes are more than a couple of inches long, you’ll have a tough product and might want to go the compost route.  If, however, you get to them sooner, they are very fine in salads, grilled with asparagus, or used for early batches of pesto.  A quick search online has revealed that many chefs  currently tout the wonders of garlic scapes in early summer meals.  If you don’t have any in your garden, look for them at your farmers market.  Garlic growers have begun to sell them as more people have learned to use them.

If you are interested, here’s a recipe to try.  It’s posted on a gardening forum called iDigmyGarden. com, shared by contributor hikingonthru:

Garlic Scape Soup – Served Hot or Cold

2 tablespoons clarified butter or extra-virgin olive oil
2 dozen garlic scapes, flower buds discarded and green shoots chopped
3 large russet potatoes, unpeeled and cut into ½ inch dice
5 cups vegetable stock or water
2 large handfuls spinach leaves, stemmed
Juice of ½ lemon
½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup heavy cream (optional)
Chive blossoms, for garnish (optional)

Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, then add the scapes and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the potatoes and stock, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through and beginning to break down.

Remove from the heat, add the spinach, and puree using a hand blender. (If you must use a conventional blender, be careful; the hot liquid can burst out the top and make a huge, potentially painful mess. Try leaving the lid slightly ajar to allow steam to escape. Cover the top with a kitchen towel and blend in batches at low speed.) Season with the lemon juice, salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Whisk in the cream for a silkier texture. If the soup tastes flat, add salt a few big pinches at a time until the flavors really pop. Serve garnished with the chive blossoms.

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