Looking like a tangled nest of bright green baby serpents, we don’t exactly blame you if you’ve never stuck your hand into a produce bin filled with fresh garlic scapes. But we do have to say that you’re missing out. These curlicued shoots only appear for a brief time each year, starting in May and going into June, making them a short-lived, seasonal vegetable delicacy.
Part flower stalk, part stem, the scape bends and spirals out of the center part of the developing garlic bulb, as it grows and hardens underground. Farmers lop them off while still green and springy so the bulb can get the bulk of the plant’s energy. If the scape isn’t removed, it hardens into what we know as the garlic stalk, and the bulb will be much smaller than desirable.
Unlike garlic cloves, which have a sharper, spicier accent note, the scape, with its milder, more forgiving flavor often gets to be the star of a recipe. It has an asparagus-like texture and versatile appeal. Scapes can be added to stir fries, battered in tempura and fried, grilled whole, pickled, or mashed into a perky pesto. They play nicely with all sorts of cuisines and cooking techniques, so try them wherever you want to enliven a favorite dish with a mild and toothsome allium.
Look for scapes that are firm but somewhat flexible and free of blemishes. Scapes will store in the refrigerator for up to a week. Longer than that and they start to soften and lose their punch. To prepare, trim the end that was attached to the bulb and remove the flowery blossom, as it tends to be stringy. If not using right away, you can blanch the scapes for 60 seconds, put them in an ice bath and freeze until you’re struck by a scape hankering.
We love this scape pesto recipe for its brightness and versatility; toss it with hot pasta, spread it on sandwiches, or use it as a dip for fresh vegetables. And remember that for pesto, ingredient order matters, so don’t just throw everything in all at once. Enjoy!
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