I had never heard of garlic scapes until several days ago, when I encountered the smooth, curving, rubbery tendrils on our garlic plants last week. They are incredible, and deserve an entire post to highlight their irresistible charm.
Garlic plants, or Allium sativum, belong to the onion family (which also includes leeks, scallions, etc.). Fun garlic facts:
- garlic contains allicin, a powerful antibiotic, and the compound that gives off that infamous garlic smell.
- elephant garlic, one of the most popular types found in grocery stores, is actually a kind of leek, not a garlic
- “garlic” comes from garleac, an old English word meaning “spear leek”
- garlic can only be found cultivated. in other words, it can’t be found in the wild.
- garlic is a natural insect repellant. just one problem: it may repel people, too 🙂
Garlic grows quite high– the plants at Drumlin are almost as tall as my chest. They have long, vividly yellowgreen-tinged-with-chalky-blue fronds, which sprout from the foot-long stalk of the plant. The scape grows from the center of those fronds, and is actually a shoot directly from the garlic bulb rooted in the earth. All of that plant energy in the bulb sprouts into a garlic scape!…
And for that reason, farmers always remove the garlic scape in the spring, while the plant is still growing. Snapping off the scape allows the energy that was going into that beautiful shoot to go back into the garlic head in the ground, making better, bigger, more bombastic garlic. For some completely unknown and probably stupid reason, most grocery stores don’t stock garlic scapes. However, many small farms sell their scapes in the springtime… why waste such a glorious part of the plant?
Garlic scapes taste milder than garlic cloves. Scapes are great in pesto, stir fried (chopped up like you’d chop a scallion), or eaten raw in salad, or anything else you can think of. I recommend dicing 3 garlic scapes and a bunch of scallions, and sauteing on high heat in olive oil. Stir frequently. Add mustard greens, including my favorite, called golden frill. Don’t overcook the greens! They’ll have more kick if they’re not totally wilted. Add 3-5 farm fresh eggs, sea salt, and pepper. Scramble it all up together until the eggs are just cooked. Serve immediately with raw grated beets as a colorful and slightly sweet garnish (grate with a cheese grater).
Here’s a bunch of scapes, just to give you a visual of these incredible spirals of plant energy:
I hope you are all enjoying the fresh food that your farmers harvest in the early summer. If you have tried, or are about to try, a garlic scape recipe, I’d love to hear about it!
PS Do not rub garlic scapes or garlic cloves on your clothes. Don’t know why you would in the first place… but if you do, trust me, the smell will NOT come out. My fellow farming apprentice learned the hard way 🙂