The Great (Garlic) E-Scape

Photo of two garlic scapes on a plate

Garlic Scapes are the French Horns of the vegetable kingdom

Unless you grow your own garlic, garlic scapes are one of those oddities that you only see at farmers’ markets.  Garlic scapes are deep green, like the dark portion of scallions, but curl around like French Horns. While not nearly as astounding as fiddlehead ferns, I think these skinny little curlicues are still pretty goofy looking.

Garlic scapes are the shoots that poke out of the ground as garlic bulbs mature in the soil. Apparently, removing the scapes while the garlic is maturing forces the garlic plants to produce bigger bulbs, as well as giving farmers an additional product to sell at farmers’ markets – and who could object to that?

Fun with Garlic Scapes

Garlic "scape"-tacles

Since I adore practically anything associated with the garlic family, I’ve bought garlic scapes at the market before, but never known what to do with them.  In the past, I’ve used them instead of garlic in stir fries, cutting them into little pieces and sautéing them with other veggies. Once blended into the dish, they tasted, well, like garlic, and made me suffer from a similar level of halitosis, according to my spouse.

Since garlic scapes don’t come cheap–$1 a scape at my local market—I decided to conduct a small cooking experiment. I cut each scape into little finger-sized pieces and plunged them into boiling water.  I took one piece out after two minutes and threw it into an ice water bath, took another piece out after four minutes, and took a third piece out after six. I also peeled a few cloves of garlic and boiled them separately to compare.

After two minutes, the boiled garlic scape was still quite crunchy and tasted extremely garlicky.  While it lacked the unpleasant metallic flavor of the boiled garlic clove that I also tasted – is there nothing I won’t do in the interest of science? – if you’re not a garlic fiend, I don’t think you’d enjoy this treat.

After four minutes, the scape was al dente and slightly less garlicky, making for a nice chewy piece of garlic candy.  After six minutes, the scape had become as stringy as overcooked celery, except mushier.  The garlic flavor was even milder, but frankly, it was too nasty to eat. My scientific conclusion – four is the magic number if you’re boiling garlic scapes. 

A question emerges– why bother?  Maybe I still haven’t hit on the right recipe. Other bloggers swear they make a fabulous pesto, and I suspect they’d be delicious pickled, but the truth is, unless I was growing my own garlic or the price came down, I’m not likely to grab ‘em again.

What do you think? Am I missing something?

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