Friday, June 20, 2008

Garlic Scapes in the Landscape

Our harvest of garlic scapes

Last year we started to despair that all of the garlic in our local grocery stores was imported from overseas, which seems outrageous since garlic grows so beautifully here in southern Ontario. So during the months of August, September, and October we bought dozens of garlic bulbs from the local farmers' market and directly from some farms we visited. We ate most of our local garlic stash, but kept a dozen or so bulbs, to separate and plant in our own garden. We don’t have an assigned vegetable garden yet, so I planted both hard and soft neck varieties anywhere I could shoehorn them in around our other plants. This year our young garlic is thriving and blocking out some other plants, notably our new yellow roses bushes (which are extra small after being eaten down to the ground by rabbits). Garlic is not quite as inconspicuous in the landscape as I’d thought it might be. Next year I will designate a garlic growing area.

Bling scape

Today we harvested the first fruits of our garlic crop: the scapes. A garlic scape is the flower stalk of the garlic plant. As the flower stalk grows, its stem coils, making it very easy to distinguish from the rest of the plant. A farmer we’d spoken to said that removing the scape encourages a bigger bulb below ground. This necessary harvest is a delicious early harbinger of the garlic crop to come. We’d noticed the appearance of the developing flower stalks a couple of weeks ago, and today they seemed at the perfect degree of curliness to be harvested. As I snipped the pale green stems, I discovered that the cut scapes can be conveniently worn as bracelets--allowing me to keep both hands free. The smell of the freshly cut garlic scapes is delicious, like garlic, only milder, and with an underlying bright fresh green scent. The scapes I’ve bought from farmer’s markets before have been fairly tough, but these freshly harvested ones are crisp, tender, and easily bitten.

Today for lunch, we had garlic scape pesto over linguine, a recipe which a quick Internet search reveals in many variations. Essentially, garlic scape pesto is one in which the scapes take on the dual role of the traditional basil and garlic.

Garlic Scape Pesto

Our Garlic Scape Pesto recipe included:

  • Garlic Scapes (about 40 with the tougher flower end removed)
  • Olive oil (several tablespoons)
  • Parmagiano reggiano (a generous grating—maybe ½ cup)
  • Pine nuts (about a ½ cup)
  • Salt to taste (less than a teaspoon)
  • Lemon juice (of half a lemon)

I made the pesto, not in the food processor, which I was too lazy to haul out of the cupboard, but in our new two-speed Osterizer blender (which we bought to replace the Kitchen Aid after I broke the blender jug. We kept the base of the Kitchen Aid and will replace the glass part if we come across one, but we are delighted with the handsome new Osterizer so far).

Our perfect, pungent lunch

The pesto was beautiful: bright pale green, and very, very pungent. The pesto had a fresh green taste with a strong undertone of garlic and quite a bit of heat after a few bites. The garlic taste is not nearly as intense as raw garlic, but unless you are a true garlic lover, this pesto won’t delight you. We we’re delighted. This pesto was wonderful on pasta, but tonight we might try it on a wild salmon fillet, which we plan to barbecue if the rain stays away. The garlic scape harvest will definitely be an anticipated yearly event for us (provided we remember to plant our garlic in the fall).


Gene said...

Sounds delicious! And double bonus points for growing it and making the pesto yourselves.

Jennifer said...

Mmm... that sounds FABULOUS. I HAVE to grow garlic next year!

Marilyn said...

Sounds wonderful, delicious - odoriferous! I really should be growing my own jewelry, too.

S & N said...

Gene, Jennifer, Marilyn,
Thanks to all of you for sharing our enthusiasm. I'm sure we derive extra pleasure from food that we've grown in our own garden. Garlic is such a good crop to grow since you can store it until you need it. I'll post again when I harvest the bulbs.

Anonymous said...

we just got scapes from our farm share today, picked this morning, and did some stir-frying. They were great with the cabbage and Japanese turnop.

S & N said...

Sounds delicious. I bet scapes are great stir-fried. Unfortunately, we've just about exhausted our supply for this year. We'd love to hear more about the farm share.

Helen said...

Sounds like a great harvest. I haven't tried growing garlic yet, though I've been tempted by the predictions of theatrical growth habits. Jewellery I hadn't heard before -- and added incentive. Guess this is the right time of year to plant, too, isn't it?