Every year at this time the cry goes out: what do you do with garlic scapes? The cry is not so loud these days because over the last couple of years we have realized that pesto is a good solution, or we have stopped worrying so much and use the scapes in “flower” arrangements.
In case you don’t know, scapes are the beautiful, curly stock that suddenly emerges from the garlic you planted last fall.
You harvest them because the scapes want to create little bulblets and you want all the plant’s energy to go into the bulb of garlic that is developing underground. Your reward for cutting off the scape is a richly garlic flavoured green.
Scapes are new to many of us because, hard to believe, garlic was not part of our life when we grew up in the 50s and 60s. It was certainly never in my home. Into the 70s garlic was sold in little cardboard packages, two tiny heads to a pack. Then gradually it became common as our cooking repertoire expanded.
A few years ago we realized that the garlic in grocery stores at that moment was grown in China. This was also the time when we were seeing amazing photos by Edward Burtynsky of Chinese industrial sites. We purchased things made in China but the idea of eating food that grew in Chinese soil felt really dodgy. At that time it was hard to find local garlic growers so we started growing our own. And discovered scapes.
Visiting super cool Belfast, Maine some years ago we came upon Chase’s Daily, an amazing restaurant/farm market concept that we have yet to achieve in Nova Scotia (sadly, now that Maine allows anybody to carry concealed weapons without any training we may not feel safe returning). In the restaurant window there was an elegant scape creation.
This encouraged me to play with our extra scapes at home.
Now local garlic is readily available, so when our crop failed last year we did not worry. If you want some fun, visit the garlic festival at Avondale Sky Winery in September. There were lots of garlic producers selling many varieties of garlic. We bought and planted some soft-neck that can be braided into bunches.
And try growing your own. As Niki Jabbour( the queen of vegetable gardening) says, “let’s be honest, it practically grows itself.” Her book The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener tells you all you need to know.
The curls of scapes reminded me of something. Then I realized: thurgas, the stylized signatures of Ottoman sultans. What do you think?