So what on earth is a garlic scape?
Prior to visiting the Seaport Market this past weekend I wouldn't have had the foggiest. The name at once brings to mind a pock-marked and otherworldly lunar vegetable patch, or perhaps obscure vernacular for a halitosis-enabled jailbreak.
But as I discovered on Saturday, garlic scapes are in fact the curly, green-coloured shoots that grow from a garlic bulb. Put more poetically: “They are one of the most gorgeous vegetables on the planet.”
At least that’s the view of Devon Koeller of Local Source Market (5783 Charles Street). She describes them as veggie Art Nouveau. “They’re like out of a Mucha painting,” Koeller says.
Have your art and eat it too. What’s not to like?
For us realist bores though, the exotic and twisted flower stalks of a garlic scape might best be described as a hardened green onion with a potent, hot and spicy, garlic flavour. While all garlic plants grow them, the tastiest scapes sprout from the hard-necked Rocambole garlic variety. They're sold locally in half pound bunches, about $2 each. Though usually discarded by garlic farmers, garlic scapes are in fact more than just edible—they're delicious.
Young garlic scapes are small, tender, and can be a tasteful addition to any standard salad. They harden with age and curl in the most flamboyant of fashions. Mature scapes should be steamed first to soften and can be added to almost any dish calling for garlic.
But the consensus around their most popular use is far and away in making garlic scape pesto. Simply blend in a food processor (not necessary to steam) and combine with olive oil, asiago or parmesan cheese, pine nuts and a dash of salt to make a lovely, basil-less pesto sauce. Enjoy over pasta with roasted veggies.
Head chef Maurizio Bertossi at The Bicycle Thief (1475 Lower Water Street) seconds the palatable pros of garlic scapes, but laments their poor availability. “I pick them up myself for home cooking, but they don’t have enough for me to use in the restaurant,” he says. “I’d love to have a lot of them.”
Garlic scapes can in fact be found in the wilds of Nova Scotia. But, “they don’t grow like grass,” warns Bertossi. “It takes a lot of looking. You’ve got to be lucky enough to find and recognize them.”
Fortunately for us though garlic scapes are still to be found fresh at local farmers markets. But act quickly—their season is short, lasting only a month long.