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 you take and as complex as the explosion of flavours you allow your palate to discover. Recently traveling and eating my way around Old Montreal, I was reminded 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 and could not be simpler to work with. The green shoot that grows out from the underground bulb of hard-necked varieties of garlic is the scape – curliquing their way above the soil surface. They are removed by gardeners/farmers to encourage the growth of the garlic bulb and therefore offer 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 up quickly with a mild, sweet, garlicky goodness. Garlic scapes are a healthy, versatile, beautiful, strange and wonderful ingredient to grow yourself or bring home from the farmers’ market so keep your eyes and mind open for the experience in early mid summer.
Many recipes are available on the Internet to follow, 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 as 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) and add to cooked new potatoes, scrambled eggs, pizzas, gourmet sandwiches, soups and sauces. Puree them raw or cooked into homemade pesto sauces or hummous. Top cooked fish or beef steaks with a pile of beautiful, fragrant pieces sautéed in a small amount of butter or olive oil and sprinkled lightly with salt. Garlic scapes can be pickled too. If you find them very young, they can be added raw to salads. If you find them a little bit older, you might want to slice and discard the woody end of the scape like you would with fresh asparagus. Barbecue them briefly and entirely whole and add them as a garnish on plates of food as a conversation-starting ingredient at your summer dinner party. They store and travel well too – a bag-full recently lasted several weeks after transporting from Dundas Farmersʼ Market to the cottage fridge (leave unwashed in a paper bag or wrapped in paper towel in the fridge).
Chopped small seed pods of the garlic scape are pictured above – so pretty! And I eat them too.