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E-scape to the wild side

scape If you do your shopping at farmers markets or even perhaps a fancy local grocery, you might be seeing these particular items now or in the near future. They are called ‘scapes’ and are a clever by-product of growing garlic.

Like all plants that grow from bulbs, at a certain point in the growth and development process, the bulb sends up a stalk with a flower bud on it. Tulips and daffodils and all other flowers that we grow from bulbs do it (and the Dutch have an entire industry based on this fact). Plants from the onion family (allium) do, too. Now, with flowering bulbs, we want to see the flowers, but instructions always tell us that as soon as the flowers begin to fail (the petals start to fall off), we’re supposed to cut off the developing seed pod from the center so that all the energy collected in the leaves will go back down into feeding the bulb so that there will be flowers next spring. Well, it works the same way with onions, garlic, shallots and so on. If we allow the plant to flower, then the energy will go to producing the flower, not building up the bulb.

And with onions, garlic and shallots, the bulb is what we’re trying to grow. In general (except for alliums which have been selected and bred for flower size and color, where the flowers are ‘where the rubber meets the road’), the bigger the bulb is when the foliage dies down and we harvest the onions, garlic and shallots, the better we like it. So, as soon as we see that stalk with a flower bud, in order to make sure that the bulb grows as big as it possibly can, we need to cut that stalk off.

That stalk with the flower bud, in garlic, is called a ‘scape’.

scapeclose As you can see from the photo, you can really tell what is the developing flower bud – it’s that swollen end. And, you are going to want to watch your garlic plants (if you are raising garlic) for when the stalk first starts to come up so that the ‘scapes’ are nice and tender.

So, you’ve cut all the ‘scapes’ off. You could, if you wanted (I suppose) just throw them away as just so much trash, but don’t do that!! They are actually very yummy! I wouldn’t eat them raw (though I’m sure they’d be pretty garlicky and strong that way.

But you can use them in any vegetable dish that you’d usually use garlic in, plus they make very yummy pesto!

Last night, I took a handful of the ‘scapes’, chopped them up and sauteed them with a little bit of olive oil along with a big handful of Swiss chard out of the garden. Extremely yummy.

Extremely garlicky too (I can’t imagine what my breath smells like today).

So, if you see them at farmers markets now (and you should start seeing them now if you have not already), try them out – it’s a way to get your fresh garlic way before the plants get harvested.

Bon Appetit!!

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One Comment

  1. SunGold says:

    Another use: Infuse olive oil with them for salad dressings, etc. Wonderful! Just be certain to fully immerse them; after a few days, strain and keep for your sauteing and salad dressing pleasure.

    C’est magnifique!

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