Wherein I discover a brand new vegetable
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.