Garlic scapes: Chop now, use later

Garlic scapes for freezing

Yesterday I cut off all the scapes from the garlic plants in my garden. This is done so the plants put their entire energy into the bulbs.

Garlic scapes are delicious but I can use only that many at a time. No reason to discard the rest, though! The chopped scapes are a great addition to soups, stir fries and other dishes so I freeze them. Continue reading

Rainy day summer soup

Although I love garlic, I have never eaten or made a garlic soup that I really liked. It always seemed to lack body and be a bit on the watery side, even the Garlic Soup from Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

The garlic scapes are in urgent need of cutting so I decided to tinker with a simple and easy formula that uses lots of scapes and thickens the soup by adding a potato. For this recipe it does not matter that some of the scapes are already turning fibrous, as they are only used to infuse the broth and discarded afterwards.

I must admit I was too deliberate with the cayenne pepper so the soup was slightly hot but otherwise I will make it again just like  this – as long as there are still scapes to be cut in the garden.

Cream of Scape Soup

12 scapes, blossom ends removed

3 cups good-quality chicken broth

1 small bunch fresh thyme sprigs

1 medium to large potato, peeled and cubed

1 cup half and half

Salt

Pepper

Pinch cayenne

White wine vinegar

Croutons to serve

1. Cut the scapes into 2-inch chunks and chop coarsely in the food processor.

2. Put chopped scapes in a large saucepan with 2 cups of the chicken broth and the thyme. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Strain through a fine sieve, reserving the broth. Discard the solids.

4. Pour the broth back in the pan and add the potato and the remaining stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook until the potato is soft, 10 to 12 minutes.

5. Puree to a very smooth consistency. Add the cream and reheat. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne, and a dash of white wine vinegar. Serve with croutons.

Makes 4 servings

Scapes straight to the table

“You mean I could have actually made money with these instead of throwing them on the compost?” asked our neighbor last year when I told him about garlic scapes being sold at upscale farmer’s markets. His family has farmed the land for generations, long before organic farming, CSA, slow food, locavore, and all the other wholesome and eco-conscious food trends came about.

His father gave me valuable gardening advice that sounded like it was coming straight from the Farmer’s Almanac, such as “Don’t plant tomatoes before the full moon in May.”  I think he got a kick out of seeing that city girl getting into gardening, and he surely wondered whether I would ever harvest anything. He passed away before my garden really started to thrive but his wife was still around then. She was confined to a wheelchair and spent the most part of every summer day on her porch, from where she waved to me when I passed by on my bike on the way to the post office.

Knowing how much she loved watermelon, I promised her a share of my first watermelon. When it was finally ripe, my husband phoned her to tell her he would bring it over but said he wanted to alert her it was so big that he had to take the truck. After that day, until she died, every time I stopped on my bike for a quick chat, she raved about how sweet that watermelon had been, then drifted off into an endless chuckle about the truck being needed to deliver it.

Back to scapes. Last year, I made scape pesto and scape butter. Both were good but I found that after a few days, the garlic flavor becomes too pungent and overpowering. I think it is best to eat scapes within a couple of days. So now I am picking not more than 2 to 3 scapes at once to make only a small amount of a dish. Unlike most days, the goal is: no leftovers.

Scape Topping for Pasta

2 to 3 scapes

½ to ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Freshly grated Parmesan

1. Cut the pointy tips off the scapes and discard. Finely chop the scapes.

2. Slowly warm the olive oil in a small saucepan. The oil should not be hot so the scapes won’t sizzle when you add them. Remove from the heat and stir in the scapes. Let sit for a few minutes, then season with salt and pepper. Serve over whole-wheat spaghetti with plenty of Parmesan.

Makes 2 servings

Feta Cheese Balls with Scapes and Hazelnuts

2 to 3 scapes

15 whole hazelnuts

8 ounces feta cheese

Extra-virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

1. Cut the pointy tips off the scapes and discard. Slice the scapes very thinly.

2. Lightly toast the hazelnuts. Set aside to cool. Rub off most of the skins and discard. Chop the hazelnuts coarsely.

3. Process the feta in a food processor to a very fine crumble. With slightly damp hands, form six compact cheese balls of the same size.

4. Pour a small amount of olive oil on a plate. Mix the scape slices and the hazelnuts with freshly ground pepper on another large plate.

5. Roll the cheese balls first in olive oil to coat lightly, then in the scape and hazelnut mix, pressing it gently into the cheese. Cover with plastic foil and refrigerate until serving.

Makes 3 servings

Scape sampler

While I have grown garlic for a number of years I did not realize until a couple of years ago that you can actually use the scapes, the undeveloped flower buds that should be cut off as soon as they appear of in order to strengthen the garlic bulbs. Then, last year, I unintentionally grew flowerless garlic.

So this year was the first time I could put my hands on scapes. I wanted to get the full scape flavor so I used them raw, in scape pesto and scape butter. Since this was a premiere, I made only small batches of each but the amounts can easily be doubled or tripled if you are lucky enough to have lots of scapes at your disposal – garlic scapes seem to be a hot commodity at farmer’s markets.

I removed the thin pointy tips of the scapes (these are the dark green blades that look like chives in the top photo), as they tend to be fibrous. The lemon juice adds a little acid to the pesto is so it keeps its color.

Garlic Scape Pesto

¼ cup coarsely chopped walnuts

¾ cup scapes

¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Juice of ½ lemon

½ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1. Lightly toast the walnuts in a non-greased pan. Set aside to cool.

2. Cut the scapes into ½-inch pieces. Put the scapes, cooled walnuts, Parmesan, olive oil, and lemon juice in the food processor. Using the pulse function, chop finely, scraping down the sides with a spatula every so often.

3. Season with salt and pepper and pulse again. The pesto should still be somewhat chunky. Fill in a jar and refrigerate.

Garlic Scape Butter

6 tablespoons soft butter

2 tablespoons chopped scapes

¼ cup packed Italian parsley

Salt

Pepper

Put all ingredients in the food processor and process to a creamy consistency. Fill in an airtight container and refrigerate.