The Great Garlic Scape Harvest

Each June, there is that one moment in time when it becomes necessary to harvest the exotically curled center flower stalk of the growing garlic plant.  While we at Aspen Moon Farm harvested a small number of scapes to be brought to market this past Saturday, it was today that the great harvest occurred.  Garlic scapes emerge from the center of hardneck garlic varieties and in order for the plant to redirect its’ energy into the production of the bulb and large cloves, it becomes essential to harvest what would be a maturing flowerhead.

A member of the allium genus and the lily family, garlic is closely related to onions, leeks, shallots, and chives.  Planted in the fall, garlic overwinters and surfaces each spring, eventually manifesting itself into a bulbously shaped, immensely flavorful, essential culinary ingredient.  Although we may take garlic for granted in cooking, one of the great beauties of this gem is that it “gives of itself” several times throughout a growing season.  Three weeks ago, we harvested green garlic, what appeared to be a scallion, but with a mild garlic flavor.  In a matter of weeks, the bulbs themselves will be harvested, some put aside to cure, others sold fresh at market.  And, today, these slightly mysterious, gastronomic delicacies were cut fresh to be enjoyed by our CSA members.  While they toughen and become more fibrous as they straighten, the scapes are best harvested as they rise above the leaves of the plant and form concentric circles.

While garlic has been used as a food for centuries, it, too, has been used in medicine, dating back to when the Egyptian pyramids were built.  In 18th century France, gravediggers drank crushed garlic in wine believing it would prevent them from the plague, and, more recently, during World Wars I and II, soldiers were given garlic to prevent gangrene.  Garlic continues to prove itself to be a natural healer, and, in modern times, has been found to aid in the prevention of heart disease and cancer.  Furthermore, garlic is rich in antioxidants and it fights free radicals in one’s body protecting against other forms of disease.

However, given the peculiar appearance of these little garlicky tendrils, how are they best handled, prepped, and used in cooking at home, one may ask?  To start, it is necessary to trim the bottom, tougher part of the scape off.  Just as one would do with an asparagus, bend the bottom, and it should naturally break where the texture of the stem changes from woody to tender.  While slightly greener in flavor than regular garlic and somewhat more mild, scapes are fantastic used fresh in egg dishes, minced in salads, pickled fresh, substituted for basil in pesto, or, generally speaking, used any way you would garlic.  Or, try this recipe for garlic scape hummus with crudité of sugar snap peas:

Garlic Scape Hummus:

2 cans of chick peas (garbanzos), drained

2 tablespoons olive oil or more as needed

1/2 cup lemon juice

Fresh chopped garlic scapes to taste

Place the ingredients in a blender and mix on high until a thick paste forms. Salt to taste.

Also included in this week’s CSA share:

– Sugar snap peas

– Fava beans

– Leafy greens or snow peas

– Red and orange baby carrots

– Salad mix

– Green shallots

 

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