Friday, May 25, 2012

Scape Reality

Did you know that garlic spends more time in the ground than any other crop we grow?  (that’s NOT including the long-term crops like strawberries and asparagus) Garlic spends about eight to nine months in the garden before it is harvested.

In October, the Boss is out there on his hands and knees, tucking each individual clove into the ground for a long growing season.

2011-garlic planting
2009-garlic planting

    By November, we see the small plants peeking along the irrigation tape. 

By December, there is weeding to be done.  Seriously!  Weeding in December…or sometimes January.

Doesn’t really seem right that the weeds grow when nothing else does.
garlic crop in early March 2012

The garlic doesn’t change much over winter.  It just sits there, growing beneath the surface, waiting for the warmer, longer days when it suddenly bursts forth in all its verdant glory.  This year’s plants are astounding.

Early Spring means a little more weeding and some fertilization. 

Late Spring means MORE weeding.  See last week's entry.

For about three weeks in late Spring, the SCAPES come out on hardneck garlic. The scape is actually the flower bud of the garlic.  If left to its own devices, this would swell and burst forth into a wild “firework” looking flower and eventually create little seeds.  I have never heard of anyone having success with these seeds, so, NO…never tried that one.

In order to get BIG, beautiful garlic bulbs, the scapes need to be cut off at some point in their growth cycle.  This allows the garlic to put all its growing energy into the production of the bulb and NOT the seedstalk/flower. When the scape begins to curl around on itself like some strange, green serpent, it is time to snip it off.  If it is clipped off sooner, it will re-grow some, reducing the energy available to the bulb.

a bucket of scapes calls to mind my grandmother's
references to "Medusa of the snake-y locks"

Since they are clipped at a time of year when it seems wrong to waste ANY thing green…somewhere along the way, someone discovered that the scapes are good to eat.  Used raw, they’re slightly crunchy, slightly garlicky, and add some bright green color.  Cooked, they are softer, smoother and the taste is less sharp.  Either way, they are delicious.  Added to soup, salad, pasta, whatever…now I am making myself hungry!

We have been growing garlic and enjoying scapes for a long time. Years ago, we attempted to sell them to restaurants and at the Market with very little customer interest.  Check out this entry from last year.  In the past couple of years, all this has changed.  While we still have people who have never heard of SCAPES, we have customers who request them and look forward to them.  One customer refers to them as “garlic curls” and I think that’s kind of cute.

I decided to produce a handout of a few recipes for the Market this year.  Imagine my amazement when I did an internet search and found over 400 THOUSAND entries! WOW!  No wonder we have customers looking for them!  The secret is out. I’ve listed a few recipes at the end of this entry. Once the scapes are harvested, they do not re-form.  So, the window of opportunity for enjoyment is very short. They will only be at the Market for a couple more weeks.

However, I found that the scapes can be chopped and frozen and enjoyed in the winter as well.  While they are not as good as the fresh ones of early Spring, they make a delightful addition to Wintertime cooking.  We chop them in ¼ inch pieces and freeze in small bags and we offer them to our Winter Sales customers as well. One customer says they make an awesome addition to cornbread!

With the garlic scapes harvest, we can look forward to harvesting the garlic.  That will take place sometime next month. Can't wait!

Here is a copy of the recipe/idea sheet we have at the Market.  Hope it inspires someone to Scape Reality!


Homestead Hill Farm

Garlic Scapes
A scape is the center stalk of hardneck garlic that will eventually become a flower if left on the plant.  They are removed to allow all the growth and energy to go into bulb production.
A delicious addition to salads, soups, stews, stir-fry and even mashed potatoes!  Simply chop each stalk as you would a scallion. (skip using the little white section...that would be the flower, and it can be rather fibrous)
Garlic Scape Pesto
(recipe adapted from a combination of online sources)

1/2 cup garlic scapes, finely chopped
4 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
2-3 cups grated Parmesan cheese (to taste)
salt to taste
Put garlic scapes and lemon juice in bowl of food processor with steel blade, and process until scapes are very finely chopped. With food processor running, add oil through the feed tube and process 2-3 minutes. Remove lid, add half of Parmesan cheese and process 2 minutes, then add the rest of cheese and salt, process for another 2 minutes.

Serve tossed with hot pasta. This would also be good on fish, as a topping for bread, or as a seasoning for cooked rice.

Recipe: Grilled Garlic Scapes
  • 4 garlic scapes, rinsed
  • 1 drizzle olive oil
  • coarse salt and pepper
Instructions: Toss the scapes in olive oil till lightly coated. Place on hot grill over high heat and sear several minutes, until soft and grill marks appear. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. Serve along side your favorite grilled meat or fish. Enjoy!

Garlic Scape Carbonara
serves 4
This pasta is fantastic as a meal served with a big garden salad and some crusty bread. If desired, add a half-cup of fresh, lightly cooked peas to the mix for a little added nutrition (and sweetness).
1/2 lb campanella pasta, or shape of your choosing
4 slices bacon (about 3 1/4 ounces), chopped
1/4 cup garlic scapes, cut into 1/4 inch coins
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
Set a pot of water to boiling on the stove and cook the campanella pasta (or desired shape).
While it’s cooking, cook the bacon over medium heat until browned. Remove the bacon pieces with a slotted spoon and add the garlic scapes. Cook until soft (2-3 minutes). Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon. (Drain both the bacon and the garlic scapes on a paper towel).
Whisk together the eggs, salt and red pepper flakes.
When the pasta is done, quickly remove it from the stove and set a different burner to low heat. Drain the pasta and add it back to the pot, on the burner set to low. Stir in the garlic scapes and bacon. Add the egg mixture and stir feverishly for 3-4 minutes until sauce is thick and creamy. Don’t let it overcook or it will be gloppy. Sprinkle the romano cheese in, a little at a time, and stir to combine. Don’t add it all at once or it won’t mix through out the pasta as well (since it will clump).
Serve immediately.

White Bean and Garlic Scapes DipSkip to next paragraph
1/3 cup sliced garlic scapes (3 to 4)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt, more to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, more for drizzling.
1. In a food processor, process garlic scapes with lemon juice, salt and pepper until finely chopped. Add cannellini beans and process to a rough purée.
2. With motor running, slowly drizzle olive oil through feed tube and process until fairly smooth. Pulse in 2 or 3 tablespoons water, or more, until mixture is the consistency of a dip. Add more salt, pepper and/or lemon juice, if desired.
3. Spread out dip on a plate, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with more salt.
Yield: 1 1/2 cups.


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