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In Season: Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes are a strange thing. First, the name. "Scape" to me, brings to mind "scapegoat", "escape" ... "landscape" maybe. All odd things to associate with a vegetable.

And it's clear they're fairly obscure. Even among New York's food obsessed, cultured throngs, as I selected my scapes from the Union Square Greenmarket, I witnessed a couple wondering aloud how one would even cook the things.

So before proceeding, I've done my homework and will share a little scape lesson with you.

Where is the garlic scape from?
We all know that garlic grows underground. But like scallions, stalks emerge above ground forming loops and topped with little flower-like bulbs. The stalk is the garlic scape. If the stalks are never removed, the traditional wisdom is that the growth of the garlic bulb is inhibited, (though another source has found that leaving the scapes on does not take resources away form the bulbs). In any case, if the tender, green stalks are left, they eventually turn hard and become the papery garlic "skin" that we are familiar with. 

Why are garlic scapes available now?
It depends on when farmers grow garlic -- typically either in the late fall or the spring. The garlic planted in the fall will be ready in the spring, and the early spring into the summer. So depending on where you live, scapes may be available from early spring into late summer.

What's with the name, scape?
Very curious, no? It's obscure enough that several online dictionaries had no reference to it. One, however, came through -- it is a botantical term meaning "A leafless flower stalk growing directly from the ground, as in the tulip." You could also call the stalk of an onion a "scape" as well.

Are garlic scapes ... garlic-y?garlic scape stir fry
In short, yes. Though they are certainly milder than garlic cloves. And depending on how they are prepared, they can be hardly garlicky at all. 

And for the best part -- how to cook them!
While a popular recipe seems to be garlic scape pesto (which I've never tried), I've found a simple saute to be very nice. I had a side of scape sauteed with some kind of savory, vinegary sauce in a Brooklyn restaurant and they were simply delicious. 

AsianSupper user umma's "Manul jjong bokkeum (garlic scape stir fry)" takes a similar approach, sauteeing the scapes with minimal ingredients, and garnishing with sesame seeds. A very mellow dish - everything you want from a side dish, which can be paired with a nice steak or a bowl of rice.

Do you have a great Asian recipe to share? Well then, what are you waiting for -- share it!

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