I’ll freely admit that I had no idea what on earth garlic scapes were until two weeks ago, when a bag of them in a local grocery store caught my eye. I’ve never grown garlic and, although unsurprised, I wasn’t aware that you can actually eat the stalks of the hard-necked varieties at a certain point in their growth. Scapes are the stalks that emerge from the bulbs (the heads, not the individual cloves) of garlic and as they age, they curl into loops. You can harvest them when they get one or two loops, or if you’re really, really adventurous and have an incredible amount of patience, you can actually propagate more garlic bulbs from the bulbils that will eventually form on the tips of the scapes. To get a decent sized garlic bulb, it takes…oh…two to three years. There are substantial benefits to growing garlic this way – it’s pretty much disease-free, and it is also a way to preserve important strains of varieties, but most home gardeners are not likely to give it a go. It’s much easier to stuff some garlic sets in the dirt in the spring and harvest in the summer of the same year.
But, back to the scapes. Don’t pass these up if you can find them (or, better yet, grow them yourself)! They are so delicious and versatile in recipes – I’ve done them up in everything from stir fry to scrambled eggs. They’re a little milder than garlic cloves, and they cook up beautifully, as long as you don’t let them stand in the heat for too long. (They’ll get a little tough and woody if you do). You can put them in a fresh green salad and apparently they can even be pickled, which I wish I had thought of earlier. Scapes are only available for a short time and I’ve missed out on the opportunity to get another bag. Oh well, there’s always next year….
http://claresholm.openroads.ca/new-oxley/ – This is the farm that grew the scapes I bought. There are some great tips for storage and usage of scapes, also some wonderful photos.
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