Working with local garlic scapes is a great way to experiment with the open-minded, no-recipe, no-rules concept of cooking.
The best moments in the kitchen involve the joy of discovery. They reflect that life is as simple as the next beautiful bite and as complex as the explosion of flavours you allow your palate to discover.
Travelling and eating my way around Old Montreal reminded me that whether you are an expert cook or a complete beginner, freeing yourself time to explore and experiment with food celebrates life and brings soul to your experiences in the kitchen.
Garlic scapes provide a wonderful opportunity for such exploration. They could not be simpler to work with. The green shoot that grows from the underground bulb of hard-necked varieties of garlic, curlicueing its way above the soil surface, is the scape. Gardeners and farmers remove them to encourage the growth of the garlic bulb, offering two eating experiences in one plant. Twirling around themselves in lengthy, dark green, tubular form and looking like a combination of Medusaʼs hair and green onions, they chop and cook quickly with a mild, sweet and garlicky goodness.
Garlic scapes are a healthy, versatile, beautiful, strange and wonderful ingredient. Grow them yourself or bring them home from the farmers’ market. Keep your eyes and mind open for the experience in early mid-summer.
Many recipes are available on the Internet. But there really is no failure in playing with this ingredient and infusing your kitchen experiences with variety and the unusual. The only rule? Just don’t cook garlic scapes longer than a couple of minutes. You do not want to downplay their seasonally fresh, dark green, tender-crunchy qualities.
- Slice them any way you want, then steam or sauté handfuls of pieces very briefly (a couple of minutes). Add to cooked new potatoes, scrambled eggs, pizzas, gourmet sandwiches, soups and sauces.
- Puree them raw or cooked into homemade pesto sauces or hummus.
- Top cooked fish or beef steaks with a pile of beautiful, fragrant pieces sautéed in a small amount of butter or olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
- You can pickle garlic scapes, too.
- You can add them raw to salads if you find them very young. If you find them a little older, you should slice and discard the woody end of the scape like you would with fresh asparagus.
- BBQ them briefly and whole, and use them as a garnish—and a conversation starter—at your summer dinner party.
They store and travel well, too. A bag lasted several weeks after transport from Dundas Farmersʼ Market to the cottage fridge (leave unwashed in a paper bag or wrapped in paper towels).