Garlic, like The Giving Tree, offers itself throughout its life stages.
In early spring, green shoots will push through the straw and grow taller and taller. This is green garlic and is a spring favorite flavor of mine. It has a grassy, garlicky flavor. Use the entire stalk like a leek.
In mid-summer (or after all five leaves of the plant are present) the stalk will start to send out its scapes. These are the curlicues that would eventually straighten to make the garlic flower. Once the plant has started to send out its scapes, it is generally too woody to continue to use as green garlic
We harvest these scapes, not only because they are delicious but also because by removing the flower- and the plants preferred method of propagation- the plant puts more energy into its bulb making the cloves larger.
If you let the scapes go a bit the plant will start to form the seeds within the flower, which are tiny, baby garlic cloves. They are a pain to peel but are a wonderful treat. I like tossing them with roasting potatoes. When both are done the garlic will push out of its skin easily.
Later in the summer, the lower leaves of the garlic will start to brown indicating that the bulb below has grown as large as it will. Pulling the entire plant from the ground you will see garlic just like at the store come from underground. We let this cure in a cool, dry, dark space to develop the paper skin and store it for the winter.
Last weekend, while walking through Bare Knuckle’s largest garlic field ever, Jess said, “Uh-oh, look at this guy!” while grasping the first garlic scape of the year. Like new potatoes, fireworks, and the first green beans, scapes are one of the beacons of summer produce. Which is also great because I tend to run out of farm garlic at the end of May and am happy for its pungent return.
Garlic scapes can be used anywhere that you’d use cloves but expect a slightly grassier and more mild flavor. And like garlic, I tend to use scapes as a base flavor in other things. In the recipes below they are the driving flavor in two very different sauces. Additionally, they are at home tossed on the grill as a side dish or folded into eggs for breakfast. And when you find time between beach and bbq, blend all the scapes you can get your hands on with oil and freeze to perk up the roasted vegetables of the fall and winter.
And the garlic was happy.
The idea for this sauce comes from my desire to have several little sauces that dress up any number of vegetables for dinner. This is a play on classic Greek tatdziki sauce that could be combined with or dolloped on top of any and all summer vegetables.
What I want while writing this is a salad of shaved raw zucchini, grilled eggplant and cherry tomatoes stacked up with spoonfuls of this this yogurt between the layers. I also want roasted beats laid out on a plate with this yogurt and smoked whitefish dotted around. Or maybe lightly steamed green beans with cucumbers and this sauce.
You could also change it up by grilling the scapes and then blending with the other ingredients. Or change out the herbs for mint or basil or oregano. Possibilities, endless.
- 10 garlic scapes
- 1 C plain yogurt
- ¼ C dill
- ¼ C parsley
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- Slice the garlic scapes into thin rounds
- Chop the herbs as finely as you like (I generally keep them a bit rough)
- Combine all together with 2 hefty pinches of salt and taste adjusting as desired
Toasting spices is an important step because it really does bring out the flavor compounds, but the idea of getting an additional pan hot and ready to go almost always deters me from doing what I know I should do. Several years ago, when making a curry, it occurred to me to heat the oil and fry the spices in the same pan as the rest of the food. This saved a pan and an unnecessary step. The only thing to keep in mind is to have some of the other ingredient ready to go because when you add the additional, cold vegetables it will cool the oil, keeping the spices from burning.
- 10 garlic scapes, roughly chopped
- 1 bu parsley
- 2 T fresh oregano
- ½ tsp chili flakes
- ¼ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp salt
- 5 limes zest and juice
- 1 C olive oil
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan until shimmery
- Turn off the heat
- Add the chili flakes and cumin until fragrant and starting to pop
- Add the garlic scapes and toss with the spiced oil and allow to soften as the oil cools
- In a blender or food processor whiz all ingredients together into a chunky paste
- Top anything coming off your grill (eggplant, trout, pork chop, zucchini or steak) w/ the sauce