Garlic scape season has officially begun. This is the perfect time to get your garlic fix before garlic bulbs are available later this season. If you are unfamiliar with garlic scapes, don’t let that stop you from picking up a bunch or two this summer. We have created an easy preparation guide and listed cooking tips to help get you started with your scapes. Don’t be afraid to ask for recipes when you are visiting the farm stand; someone working there or more likely someone picking up scapes for themselves, will be willing to share their preferred method for enjoying these seasonal treats.
What is a Garlic Scape?
Garlic scapes are the flowering stem of the garlic plant. They resemble a small garden snake, long, green, swirly, and packed with a strong bite. The small, yellowish bud seen on one end of the scape nests the garlic’s flower. The scape is harvested so the garlic plant can use it’s energy for growing the bulb rather than blooming the flower. Once the final scape is harvested they wont be available until next year. I suggest picking up a few bunches to enjoy right away and getting some extra bunches to enjoy after the season is finished.
How To Prepare Garlic Scapes
Regardless of how scapes are cooked, they should always be cleaned and trimmed down. Start with handwashing the whole scapes in your sink with running cold water. Leave them in a colander for a few minutes to dry before continuing preparation.
Once drained, remove the pointy part that extends out of the bud. This part has a chewy, stringy texture and will not be enjoyable to eat.
After your scapes have been cleaned and trimmed, you can use them for any recipe you wish. I suggest you cut a small slice off one scape to get a taste for their raw flavor. The raw scape will excite your taste buds and your nose with a pungent garlic aroma. I wouldn’t advise you to eat the entire scape raw, unless you happen to enjoy garlic breath or know a particularly annoying vampire. It is always good to know exactly how “garlicky” your scapes taste before you begin cooking them. If your scapes are particularly mild, you might enjoy having them raw and thinly sliced on top of a baked potato or mixed into a chimichurri. Unlike raw scapes, cooked scapes taste quite sweet and earthy, faintly tasting of toasted green beans.
How to Cook Garlic Scapes
There are many ways in which a garlic scape can be cooked. You could sauté, roast, grill, pickle or ferment them. You can really use scapes in any recipe you would normally use garlic cloves. When replacing garlic cloves, be sure to use more scapes than what the recipe calls for, as the scape is much more mild in flavor. If you haven’t cooked garlic scapes before then I suggest you start with a sauté. The produce from the stand is amazingly fresh and packed with flavor that can be enjoyed with just some oil, salt and pepper. This will allow you to get a good understanding of the scape flavor profile and it is the simplest method for cooking them. After trying some of your sautéed scapes, feel free to start experimenting with other cooking methods.
To sauté your garlic scapes, set a pan over medium-high heat and cook them with some oil, salt, and pepper. The skin of the scape will blister and the room should start to fill with a warm, sweet roasted garlic aroma. Be careful not to burn them; just like burnt garlic cloves, burnt scapes become quite bitter and will leave your mouth feeling a little dry. When cooked properly, the garlic scapes will become sweet and tender. It’s a great idea to sauté the scapes when you have guests over. The smell of cooking scapes is absolutely intoxicating and many people have never tried scapes before, making your scapes the best they will have ever had. Be sure to give your guests some of the flower buds as well; the flavor is the same as the rest of the scape, but the texture is much more tender.
If you are someone who likes to enjoy seasonal vegetables out of season, a salt fermentation is a great way to extend the life of your scapes. The scapes will stay crunchy and garlicky and can add a lot of zest to any sandwich or charcuterie board. You can always play around with the seasonings and concentration of salt in your fermentation brine, perhaps making some sweeter, some spicier or some packed with herbs. While you could freeze scapes, I prefer to ferment them. Unlike freezing, fermenting scapes will build a deeper, more complex flavor profile the longer you leave them. Either way, enjoy them fresh while they are still in season and be sure to preserve as many as you can to enjoy them all year round.