Monday, June 18, 2007

Wherein I discover a brand new vegetable

I first noticed them at a farmers' market stall about a year ago. I wondered what a cook would do with them. Thinking of the flower stalk on other alliums, I would have expected them to be woody to the point of inedibility. Since then I've learned a bit about garlic scapes, which have become the darling of the vegetable world.

The scape is removed from the garlic plant in order to force the plant to put its energy into the bulb. Garlic farmers used to discard them but now they've become a bonus crop. Recipes for using them abound on food blogs everywhere, with garlic scape pesto being the most common.

Last fall I planted several varieties of garlic, but in my usual haphazard way of gardening I forgot exactly which varieties I'd planted where. I was delighted to discover yesterday that a couple rows of plants had sent up scapes. That would be the hardneck variety then. (Apparently only the hardneck varieties produce scapes.) I picked them all and headed back to the kitchen to play with them.

The scapes grow in a curl, like a pig's tail. I didn't have my camera handy but anyways, you should go to this web site to see what they look like because Floyd the Food Guy's photography is some of the best on the internet. I harvested mine when they were 9-12" long and they had the tender crispness of an asparagus spear and a delicate garlic flavor. The ones I saw in the farmers' market were 2-3 feet long; I suspect at that size they aren't nearly as tender and smelled quite strong.

I used a dozen of the scapes to make a pesto--just the scapes, about 1/2 cup olive oil, and a few handsful of grated cheese (I used Trader Joe's Quattro Formaggio, which is a blend of asiago, parmesan, fontina, and provolone because it's what I had on hand). The sauce was a beautiful pale greenish yellow and the lightest, sweetest garlic taste you could ever imagine.

The rest of my scapes went into a stir fry with chunks of tofu, ground pork, dried fungus, ginger, and soy sauce. They kept their bright color and crunch throughout the cooking and made a nice contrast to the cubes of tofu and the other textures.

It's the softneck garlic that you want for winter storage. The hardneck varieties don't keep more than a few months. But I'll definitely be planting a lot more hardneck garlic this fall. I'm sure I can find someone to take any surplus heads of garlic off my hands, and I am in love with this new seasonal vegetable.


Blogger fiona-h said...

so interesting!! will def. tell my husband (the chef around here) about this

18 June, 2007 22:57  
Anonymous Allotment Lady said...

Oh silly me I posted my comment about these on the flowers post below

Thanks for this - reallyinteresting.

19 June, 2007 00:52  
Blogger Iowa Gardening Woman said...

Interesting, they look like green snakes!

20 June, 2007 11:54  
Blogger Kate said...

The pictures of garlic scapes are so cool ... like curly onions. I have never heard of using them - the garlic scape pesto sounds delicious!

21 June, 2007 12:40  
Anonymous Allotment Lady said...

Molly - re currant bush cuttings. They are so simple to do.

I will post it on my blog

30 June, 2007 00:13  
Blogger Yolanda Elizabet said...

Mmmmmmmmm, delicious. I must try to grow garlic that produces scapes too next year. How was the garlic scape pesto? Fingerlicking good? ;-)

03 July, 2007 03:56  
Blogger Zoey said...

I have never heard of these, Molly. How interesting! I am going to look at the pictures.

I don't know why your lychnis seeds do not produce magenta flowers if they came from magenta??? Very strange. Mine have always been the same color.

03 July, 2007 19:17  
Blogger kate said...

Missing you Molly!!!

10 July, 2007 21:59  

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