What Are Garlic Scapes?
Heads of garlic are an essential part of any gourmet kitchen, but did you know that there’s much more to garlic than its cloves?
Garlic scapes (also known as garlic tops, garlic shoots, green garlic, spring baby garlic, garlic spears, early garlic greens, or garlic “flowers”) are the curly tipped, extremely tasty green shoots that grow from “heads” of hardneck (or topset) garlic which are usually discarded before harvesting in most of the U.S.
This is quite a shame because garlic scapes are a versatile and nutritious culinary treasure that is valued in Korean, Chinese, Thai, Polynesian, and coastal French cuisine. (Asian markets with produce sections are virtually guaranteed to stock fresh garlic scapes in season, but you can also find them at farmers’ markets, and gourmet supermarkets. Frozen garlic scapes are even easier to find and are readily available year-round in the freezer section of most Asian supermarkets.)
Taste-wise, garlic scapes are to garlic heads what scallions are to onions. They are garlicky but with a fresh “green” taste. They can be used in any dish where one usually uses garlic but wants a brighter, more complex garlic flavor with less bite than one would get from standard garlic cloves.
Garlic scapes work well in soups, salads, stews, salsas, dips, guacamole, omelettes, frittatas, souffles, marinades, pesto, salad dressings, and stir-fry. They can also be pickled and added to homemade flavored vinegars. Scapes are also delightful when cooked into sauces.
A simple but wonderful garlic scape spread can be made by chopping some up and mixing them with softened cream cheese (or sour cream) and dill. When added to mayonnaise to make an aioli, the flavor of chopped garlic scapes becomes milder and the savory notes are more apparent. I also like to make a nice garlic scape dressing with sour cream to add to salads, use as a dip for crackers, Triscuits, toast points, and pork rinds or to spoon over a nice salad.
Garlic scapes also make an interesting side dish. Here’s a simple but good recipe for roasted garlic scapes I came across awhile ago:
Roasted Garlic Scapes
Take the scapes and put them in a lightly oiled roasting pan, top with salt (kosher or sea salt works best). Put the loaded and covered pan in a hot (425°F) oven for 30 to 45 minutes or until they are beginning to turn brown. serve as a side or main dish. Tastes like roasted garlic but creamier. This is also good drizzled with a light cheese sauce.
Here’s a recipe for garlic scape pesto:
Garlic Scape Pesto
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or even better in my experience, Tallegio cheese)
3 Tbsp. fresh lime or lemon juice
1/4 lb. garlic scapes
1/2-cup olive oil
Salt to taste
Puree’ scapes and olive oil in a food processor until smooth. Stir in Parmesan and lime or lemon juice and season to taste.
More Uses For Garlic Scapes:
You can also chop up garlic scapes and use them for seasoning, just like regular garlic.
Garlic scapes can be dehydrated, or preserved as a pesto. They also freeze well for future use.
NOTE: The numbers in the photo above correspond to the instructions below…Have fun using your new spice!
Why Make Your Own Garlic Scape Spice?
Since the garlic scape season is a fairly short one in many parts of the country, this recipe will allow you to conveniently add the bright taste of garlic scapes to your meals all year round. This spice can also be added to homemade dehydrated soup mixes so you can have the taste of garlic on the go, and in a lightweight yet durable format for campers, etc. This would also make a great homemade gift for any die-hard garlic lover!
This recipe also allows garlic scape nuts…er afficianados to justify large purchases of garlic scapes in season because dehydrated scapes take up much less space than fresh ones and have a long shelf life while still retaining their flavor and nutritional value.
As far as I know, no company has yet decided to put garlic scape spice on the market, so if you want to enjoy the goodness of garlic scape spice, you’ll have to make your own.
1. Grab a few handfuls of garlic scapes, clean them, and shake the water out. Use a food processor to puree’ your garlic scapes (you may need to cut them in pieces before loading them into the food processor). Or chop your garlic scapes with a sharp kitchen knife as finely as you can.
2. Pour the pureed garlic scapes onto the trays of your electric dehydrator and turn it on. Dehydration should take 4-6 hours. The garlic scapes are done when they are dry and brittle like the dried chives you get in the spice jars you find in the supermarket.
3. To give your garlic scape spice a versatile, dried chive texture, use a mortar and pestle and grind the newly dried spice until it’s the texture you like. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can hand crumble the spice in a bowl instead.
4. To give your garlic scape spice a fine, powdery texture, just pour the dried scapes into your food processor or coffee mill/spice grinder and process until fine. Or just keep processing it until it’s the right texture with a mortar and pestle.
Tip: If you opt for the fine texture, you can mix it with salt and/or other spices to make your own custom garlic scape spice blend. If you opt for the “chive” texture and decide down the road that you’d prefer to make a spice blend, you can always grind it finer and add your salt or other spices later.
5. Store your finished garlic scape spice in a glass bottle…enjoy!
Want to learn more about the pleasures of garlic scapes? The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a nice overview here.
Are you a gardener? Here’s how to grow the type of garlic that produces garlic scapes.
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