Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Garlic Scapes

Our garlic has begun to blossom.  Mid-season, the lily sends off a curly, pigtail-shaped shoot with a long pointy flower blossom on the end.  Eventually this will open and become pollinated by an insect, so long as a curious cook doesn't get to it first.  When young, garlic scapes are deliciously tender, bursting with garlic flavor in an unfamiliar form.  The shoots taste somewhat like green onions and have a texture similar to a chinese long bean; firm and crunchy.  They can be eaten raw, if you dare, or they can be sauteed, grilled, marinated, roasted, or braised to help soften their flavor and mouthfeel.  Scapes contain a large amount of cellulose which is stringy and tough.  Slicing the scape across the grain into thin discs will really reduce the amount of chewing needed to break them down.
     Some farmers suggest removing the scape to produce a larger garlic clove.  The energy otherwise wasted on the flower will go to an increased size of the more valuable vegetable below.  Others, believe it has no effect on the garlic at all.  I love to eat them, so I removed most of them.  A few were left behind to experiment and see the difference myself.  The most effective way to harvest them is to bend them over and slide your hand down the shoot until it snaps off, usually right next to the leaves.
     Fresh scapes are a wonderful way to taste the unripe garlic that is still growing below the ground.  Simply sauteed and mixed with some mashed potatoes is a delicious counterpart to a slow roasted chicken.  Additionally, the leftover meat makes a great chicken salad with some of the scapes sauteed, then cooled.  Many cooks prefer to make pesto with these difficult to cut veggies.  Either way, they are indeed delicious!


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