Skip to content

Scapes! Scapes! Get your Garlic Scapes!

June 23, 2013

A scape is considered a leafless peduncle that rises directly from a bulb or stem in the ground. A single scape can bear one single flower or many flowers; this is dependent on the plant species. One particular species that is well known in the culinary world belongs to the allium genus, or the onion genus. Allium is the Latin word for garlic, but this genius includes a variety of edible plants; these consist of onions, garlics, chives, and leeks. Allium sativum, more commonly understood (in English) as garlic, is a culinary wonder. The history of its usage dates back to a lengthy 7,000 years of serving the human inhabitants of Asia, Africa, and Europe (both for culinary and for medicinal purposes).

Garlic grows as a bulbous plant around the world. Luckily for those of us here in Ontario, two types of garlic (hardneck and softneck) grow quite well in this province. In this piece, I’m going to narrow in on the hardneck varieties, as they produce a scape.

I find that often this scape is underappreciated. If you happen to be a big garlic fan, the garlic scape may soon serve as a contender for one of your new favorite ingredients. The scape is the green, flowering, often loopy shoot that is commonly snipped off in order to focus the plant’s energy back below ground to the bulb. If left to grow, scapes will eventually form bulbils, which look a lot like flowers that can be planted to grow more garlic. But, as it turns out snipping these scapes off can be quite the treat. They deliver a deliciously fresh garlic flavor that seems to be crossed with a scallion, all wrapped up in the consistency of asparagus. They are much milder than garlic, but can still be used (both raw and cooked) as a garlic substitute in many recipes. Garlic scapes are truly a versatile and unusual treat for those adventurous chefs.

Garlic scape pictured in the Dig In! garden at Hart House. Garlic scapes are ready to be harvested when when they curl around twice, as pictures.

Garlic scape pictured in the Dig In! garden at Hart House. Garlic scapes are ready to be harvested when when they curl around twice, as pictures.

So, garlic scapes taste good, but are they good for you? Since they are part of the garlic plant, they offer many of the same health benefits as their clovey counterpart. Throughout history, garlic has a reputation for its rich medicinal and even magical properties. Garlic can prevent heart disease and control high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and even cancer. It can enhance immune system functioning and work toward reducing inflammation. The scapes also generally contain a notable amount of protein, vitamin C, and calcium.

Now that it’s pretty clear that not only does your body long for the companionship of some scapes, but so does your inner chef, let’s focus on where you’ll find these green beauties. Garlic scapes have a very short growing season. You’ll want to pick the scapes early on; usually they’re at their best in mid-June. As the scapes grow, they get tougher and their flavor is not nearly as balanced. If you are growing your own garlic, you will want to cut scapes early: the scape should be cut once the flower bulb has begun to form, long before the flower begins to bloom. It is best to harvest in the mid-afternoon when the heat of the sun will work to dry the sap and seal the cut quickly. For those of you who will be looking to purchase these green goddesses, their market season usually lasts from mid-June to mid-July; you’ll want to be on the prowl at farmer’s markets starting this week.

Garlic scapes can be harvested where the stem meets the leaf near the top of the plant. Just give the scape a tug to pop it off, or cut it with a harvesting knife. The white part pictured is where the flower will bloom.

Garlic scapes can be harvested where the stem meets the leaf that is closest to the top of the plant. Just give the scape a tug to pop it off, or cut it with a harvesting knife. The white part pictured is the bulbils.

To finish off our garlic scape experience, I will leave you with some exciting activities for you and your scapes to participate in…well, more like recipes for you to put those scapes to good use.

For some simple ideas, you can:

Steam them like asparagus and toss them with some butter, salt, and pepper.

Sauté them with butter in a pan, until tender.

Stir-fry them. Chop them into one-inch bits and add them to one of your wok dishes.

Sprinkle them on pizza.

Pickle them.

Infuse them in vinegar or oil to use in other culinary adventures.

Grill them up with your favorite summertime dishes.

And remember, if you scoop up  more than you can handle, they do freeze well.

Other popular, and slightly more complex, approaches include:

A  white bean and garlic scapes dip 

Or pasta with garlic scape pesto 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s