Right about now, garlic plants all across our region are sending up their flower buds on tough stalks with a beguiling coil, and a long-beaked bud that looks for all the world like a bird’s head. Usually garlic is propagated by using the cloves in the bulb, divided out and planted individually, but garlic also forms seeds out of its ball of flowers. When it blooms, the garlic bulb usually loses its tight, hard characteristic, which renders it less useful culinarily, so those of us who raise garlic usually cut scapes off shortly after they emerge, so that the plant puts its effort into making a bulb. Then the question is, what to do with the scapes?
Mainly the thing to remember is that scapes are garlic, only milder. If you want a stronger garlic flavor, use more of them, and vice versa. You may prefer, as I do, to chop off the more fibrous part of the stem and long beak, which can be pretty tough. If you toss them into a food processor, you can get away with leaving tougher parts on.
One: Coarsely chopped scapes — Add coarsely chopped scapes to roasted vegetables, stir-fries or scattered over the top of a pizza.
Two: Finely chopped scapes — Use them in any way that you normally use garlic: in butter for garlic bread; added to sauces such as spaghetti sauce; added to sour cream for a garlicky vegetable or chip dip; sprinkled into omelettes, scrambled eggs or frittata; added to salad dressing; as an addition to celery, onion and carrot for a start to soups; stirred into mashed potatoes; or added to potato salad.
Three: Garlic scape pesto — Put coarsely chopped scapes into a food processor and process until it is very fine. Slowly drizzle in olive oil until a spreadable paste forms. You can put this mixture into jars or plastic containers to refrigerate or freeze for use later. If you wish, add pine nuts or walnuts and Parmesan cheese, and process again, adding more olive oil as needed. Use the mixture as you would basil pesto. I particularly like to make a white (or greenish) lasagna with garlic scape or basil pesto stirred into the ricotta.
Four: Garlic scape soup — The idea for this came from my summer resident pal Kay, whose daughter’s soup was a hit with their family. You can serve garlic scape soup warm on a cool day or cool on a warm day. You can use potatoes and/or cauliflower as the base, heavily flavored with lots of chopped scapes. Then add chicken or vegetable broth, or water, and add cream to make it a cream soup. Add a couple handfuls of spinach or chard leaves to make it greener and boost the vegetable content. Kay said her daughter brightened up the soup with lemon. So good.
Five: Garlic scape bouquet — Well, you might not want to eat it, but the scapes are gorgeous and dramatic in a vase, with their lovely coils and pretty little heads.
Garlic Scape Soup
Serves 3 to 4
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound of garlic scapes, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 small carrot, grated
1 small onion, chopped
2 large potatoes, cut small, or half a head of cauliflower broken into small florets
1 quart stock, chicken or vegetable, or water
2 large handfuls spinach or chard leaves, chopped
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup all-purpose cream, or half and half, or to taste
1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot, and add the celery, carrots and onion. Cover with a lid and cook until the vegetables are soft, about five minutes.
2. Add the potatoes or cauliflower and stock or water, bring to a boil, then reduce the temperature and cook until the potatoes or cauliflower are soft.
3. Remove from heat, stir in the spinach or chard, and puree with an immersion blender, or cool and puree in a food processor.
4. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice, taste and adjust seasonings.
5. Stir in the cream and if you want to serve it warm, reheat gently until it is just warm, or serve it cool or at room temperature.
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