Garlic is my favourite thing to grow and one of the best things about it is scape season. Garlic scapes are the tender, curling stalks that shoot up from most hardneck varieties. Traditionally farmers snap them off as it’s believed to direct more energy to the bulb below ground, resulting in larger heads. If left on the plant they will eventually stand straight and tall, producing a bulbil on top that can be used to expand and strengthen your seed garlic stock. The straightening of the stalk is a sign that it’s time to stop watering your garlic and it will be ready to harvest three to four weeks later. I like to leave at least a dozen scapes on for each variety and have been enjoying experimenting with growing the resulting bulbils.
Beyond it’s usefullness in the garden the garlic scape is a culinary delight that is only available for a few weeks each year, if you are lucky enough to find them! They are similar to asparagus in texture but with a garlic bite.
Cooking scapes will mellow them out a bit, they are delicious lightly steamed or grilled with a dash of balsamic vinegar. They can be chopped and used anywhere you would use garlic — you can even pickle them. Just like asparagus, scapes can become woody towards the end of their short season but don’t despair, they can still be dried and used for spice mixes.
Garlic scape pesto is a family favourite. I make a base of scapes, lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt and pepper and freeze it in jars to be used throughout the year. You can make endless pesto combinations from that point by simply switching up the types of nuts and cheese. It makes a superb addition to roasted potatoes, sauces and stirfrys.
Garlic scape season is fast and furious, if you blink you might miss it so keep your eyes peeled at your local farmers market for this tasty treat!