Fear of missing out fuels garlic scape quandary

Erin Schanen

I have spent the last week on a quest to make something delicious out of garlic scapes, the curvy flower stalks of hardneck garlic. It’s important to cut them off so garlic continues to put energy into forming a nice bulb rather than flowering and setting seeds and they are completely edible.

Garlic scapes are one of the first crops, other than leafy greens, to come out of the vegetable garden, so there’s a certain amount of ceremony involved in what will be made of them. You can’t buy them in grocery stores and they obviously have a very small harvest window, so many people consider them a rare delicacy not to be missed.

Since I have a large quantity of this seemingly in-demand foodie favorite every year, I strive to make something wonderful with it. Garlic scape pesto is often mentioned as a delicious dish, but I’ve made it twice and in both cases it was hugely overpowering. In fact, overpowering seems to be the order of the day with garlic scapes, which pack a lot of garlicky power into each little whip.

I made a chimichurri sauce with garlic scapes, parsley, cilantro, lemon juice and oil and it was OK, but the recipe, which made about two cups of sauce, used only 10 garlic scapes and seemed more like an attempt to sneak garlic scapes into a recipe rather than one that featured them.

A fellow gardener told me she had taken to sautéing them in olive oil, a preparation that made them passable but nothing special, which makes me wonder if maybe garlic scapes aren’t so special after all.

Of course there are plenty of garden delights that are not to our taste. A family member insists there is no preparation that can make kale palatable, although I love a simple salad made with Lacinato kale, shallots, pine nuts and parmesan with a simple vinaigrette.

Other than the occasional experiment, I don’t waste garden space on food I don’t like to eat.

Kohlrabi is one of those vegetables that people rave about so long as you can get them garden fresh. I confess that my interest in them has more to do with their bizarre looks, sort of like a baseball with tentacles, and that I’ve never tried them or dedicated a single inch of garden space to them. I did grow celeriac once, maybe thinking it was kohlrabi, and I used it mashed with a couple potatoes. That wasn’t bad but not good enough to get a place in the garden again.

I admit that other than turmeric and ginger, almost everything I grow in my vegetable garden is quite ordinary, but it’s also what I love to eat. That, of course, makes the most sense, but I can’t help but think I’m missing out on some delicious treat.

I’ll keep looking for something great to try, but first I have a bag of garlic scapes in my fridge guilting me into finding something to do with them.


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