One of the things I love the most about having a garden is the way it changes how you experience the passage of time.
Here I am, enjoying an oddly warm and dry June in Vancouver, wandering my garden with camera and knife in hand – lovingly documenting my miraculous garlic scapes before unceremoniously chopping their heads off. Hard to believe that when these beauties went in the ground I was wearing a toque, not flip-flops. My garlic is one of the few things in my garden that survived an unusually vicious winter. Even when the ground was still frozen they were stubbornly poking their heads up through the soil. Their resilience has been amazing.
I had no idea what garlic scapes even were this time last year. It wasn’t until I started researching how to grow garlic last fall that I had any idea. Hard-neck garlic varieties send up a scape in early summer – usually June. Left unbothered, the scape – a long slender shoot emerging from the center of the fan of leaves – will slowly curl around itself, and if left long enough will straighten back up again and bloom. They are beautiful, but if you want nice heads of garlic, it’s best to remove them. This is said to send the plants energy down into the bulb, rather than up into the flower. Apparently commercial garlic growers used to promptly chuck them onto the compost heap – but thankfully people have discovered a much better use for them – supper!
A popular use for garlic scapes is garlic scape pesto. The fiance and I looked up some recipes and tried it with our first precious harvest of scapes. The recipe directed us to pulse the scapes raw and then add parm, toasted pine nuts and olive oil – just like a traditional pesto. There were rave reviews on other blogs but I’ve got to tell you – not loving it. The scapes have a sharpness to them much like fresh garlic when they’re raw. And the texture is sometime like green beans. Imagine blitzed green beans. Ya. Not so nice, right? So much for that recipe. Maybe if we’d steamed them first it would have taken the edge off. Next time. It would be lovely to have some garlic scape pesto tucked in the freezer for blustery west-coast winter nights. . .
Not to be deterred, we kept trying – we had to cut them off anyway, might as well figure out something to do with them. And then the fiance, who’s always a force in the kitchen, wandered out into the yard and returned triumphant with a bowl full of goodies; swiss chard, rappini, kale and scapes. Into a hot frying pan with a bit of olive oil, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes and my god – heaven! Sauted they are sweet and tender with a lovely mild taste of garlic. We ate them straight from the pan. The next night a similar treatment and then into a lovely light cream sauce and tossed with spaghetti. Perfection.
garlic scape pasta recipe
- handful of garlic scapes, chopped into 1-2″ pieces
- a wack of leafy greens, sliced or torn into bit-sized pieces (kale, swiss chard, rappini)
- 2 or so cloves of garlic, finely sliced
- half an onion, sliced
- olive oil
- splash of white wine
- sun-dried tomatoes
- cooked sausage – we used honey garlic, sliced thin
- salt and pepper
- handful of fresh thyme
Adjust amounts to your own taste – any fresh herb would be lovely. Make sure you have everything ready to go before you start or you’ll make a mess of it.
Heat up the pan, add the olive oil and when hot add the sun-dried tomatoes, onions and garlic. Add veg, starting with the hardiest, and sweat it down, but don’t cook the hell out of it. Toss in the sliced sausage. Add a good glug of wine to deglaze the pan – rub the bottom like mad to get all the good brown bits up. Pour in some cream – usually about 1/4 to 1/2 of a cup is plenty, and grate in as much parm as you think is socially acceptable. Don’t be shy. Let it simmer and thicken a bit. Drop the cooked pasta right into the frying pan and add a little bit of the cooking water. Mix it all about, season to taste with salt and pepper and scatter with chopped fresh herbs and more parm. Serve immediately. Delish!