Back in November when the garden was put to bed, summer’s harvest preserved, frozen or consumed, the planting season was not quite over. Garlic bulbs needed to be nestled in the ground to provide winter dreams, a summer scape harvest and of course fall bulbs.
Planting the bulbs is a kin to traveling the world. As I set out the plant labels for each row I mentally did a trip around the globe as I read the names – German Extra Hardy, Russian Red, Persian Star, Georgian Fire, Korean Purple, French, Leningrad, Yugoslavian, Fish Lake (that one’s local), Bavarian Purple and Polish Jenn; each with its own flavour and colour.
Bulbs were planted and mulched and I proceeded to await the snowfall to cover my buried treasures. Then I wait, and wait. Wait through the long winter snow ice and cold until spring’s warming sun melts the snow and awakens the sleeping bulbs. Once they push through the ground they seem to grow faster than James Hinchcliffe circles a racetrack. Then, there they are usually in early July – like a prize trophy – the first scapes.
Garlic scapes are in essence a flower stalk and as such need to be removed to send the plant’s energy to bulb production. This can be a laborious task when planted in numbers but rewarding for certain. The scapes grow at a rather rapid pace and twist and turn into an otherworldly shape. They are best removed when slender and at their most juicy and timing is important. The earlier you snip the scape gives you a larger bulb, sacrificing some storage life. Leave your scape on until the curl starts to straighten, and you increase bulb storage life greatly
So, what to do with these odd stalks once cut? Yes, the compost heap is one alternative however not my first suggestion. Turn these lovely slightly garlic-scented stalks into all sorts of treasure. Google garlic scape recipes and you will be surprised at what you can do with them.
Don’t want to be too fancy with them? Slice them and add them to the water before boiling rice or pasta. You can pickle them using your favorite pickling juice, make them into pesto, make scape butter, the uses are endless.
Discard the flower bulb and chop up the thin slender stalk into smallish pieces. Chuck them into a food processor and grind them up into a paste. Once they approach a fine chop, drizzle in oil olive to make a nice paste. Stuff the paste into square ice cube trays or fancy shaped trays and freeze. Once frozen pop them into freezer bags and presto – pesto. Sure you could add some cheese or pinenuts but I go for the plain approach.
Try one of these cubes slathered on hot corn on the cob. Pop them right from the freezer into a soup, stew or pasta sauce, put one or two inside a whole chicken before roasting.
Scape butter is easy as well – grind the scapes in the food processor and instead of adding oil, fold this ground mixture into butter (or margarine) and roll into logs. Wrap them in plastic wrap and foil and freeze. When roasting that next chicken cut off a 2-3 inch piece of the frozen log and place inside the chicken (with or without some herbs).
I have one friend who owns a B&B and he uses these spectacular scapes as part of his flower arrangements. As I said, the uses are endless. Watch for garlic scapes at your local farmers’ market where they are often found in abundance for a very short period of time.
You can find me in the garden waiting with scissors in hand, just waiting for my scapes to appear. Oh, gotta go, I see them now.