I was visiting my grandmother the other day, who lives in a very small town where everybody seems knows each other and everything is just more relaxed.
We went out to the local café for lunch, and just as we walked in there was a huge cardboard box with the words: “Organic Garlic Scapes, $2/bag”, scribbled on the side. I can’t imagine what kind of restaurant would ever have such a treasure trove of whole food treats greeting customers at the hostess stand of a big city eatery. Sigh. I love small town Ontario.
On the way out I asked for a bag of scapes, which was almost too big to wrap my arms around, tossed the waitress a toonie, and went on my merry way. My grandmother had never heard or seen anything like them before, as I am sure most people haven’t – unless you’ve been to a farmer’s market lately.
What is a Scape?
Garlic scapes are the curly-cue stalks of the garlic plant that matures along with the garlic blub – the part that most of us are familiar with. As the bulb grows larger underground, the stalk begins to lengthen and develop a seed head. At this stage, the scapes are removed from the plant in order to focus all of the garlic’s energy into the bulb growth. When young, the scapes are lovely and tender, and contain a great deal of flavour – although the stalk never reaches the level of pungency that cloves of garlic contain. I find the flavour is more like a shallot with its subtle sweetness. When roasted or grilled the taste really mellows out to a smooth smokiness with a hint of garlic without the bite.
Scapes can be used in a number of ways. Pesto is a very popular application and a really nice addition to pasta, or as a topping for fresh summer vegetables like tomatoes. I have also had pickled scapes, scape stir-fry, and scape soup. You can sort of treat scapes as you would asparagus, get creative and appreciate them while they are in their peak season!
Nutritious and Delicious
As far as health benefits go, garlic scapes boast many of the same super heatlh-promoting properties that garlic cloves contain. We’re talking loads of manganese, to keep your bones strong and healthy and protect cells from free radical damage; vitamin B6 to support your nervous system; vitamin C to boost your immune system and improve iron absorption; and selenium to reduce joint inflammation. And because you’ll likely to only find locally grown scapes (grocery chains tend to only sell “the familiar”, right?), you can rest assured that the product you’re buying is freshly picked, which means more nutrition!
Head to a farmer’s market or good health food store to find scapes right now – they are not around for long and it is the season for trying something fresh and exciting.
To be honest, I had never grilled scapes before the other night, but these turned out to be one of the most lip-smacking veggies I have ever had the pleasure of munching on. Oh BABY! You must try this as soon as possible and serve it to all of your friends who will surely marvel at this fancy “new” vegetable that no on has ever heard of but tastes like a dream. And as a bonus, let’s talk about that super short ingredient list! I bet you have everything but the scapes in your kitchen right now.
You can serve the grilled scapes on their own as side dish, perhaps with a squeeze of lemon juice, or you can get fancy and make it into a simple summer salad with some bitter lettuce. I chose radicchio, which not only looks beautiful (I love purple and green together), but the bitterness of the lettuce pairs really nicely with the smooth, mellow, garlicky-ness of the scapes. It’s a match made in heaven! I also made a very basic dressing that you can whip up to your taste. After all, it’s summer. Relax and ditch the recipe.
1 bunch scapes
extra virgin olive oil
1.Preheat grill to medium high.
2. Pick through scapes and discard any that are mushy or dried out. Cut off tough ends (as you would with asparagus). Rinse and dry.
3. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt.
4. Place scapes on grill and spread out evenly (be careful they don’t fall through!). Close lid and cook for about 3-4 minutes, until they are slightly charred underneath. Flip scapes and continue cooking on the other side until evenly cooked – they should be slightly crunchy still, but not raw!
5. Remove from grill, season to taste (lemon juice is yummy too) and serve.
Optional: Make a dressing out of olive oil, fresh lemon juice, maple syrup and a pinch of sea salt, whisk together. Toss large leaves of radicchio, or other bitter lettuce with dressing, and place grilled scapes on top.
I hope you get chance to try these really special summer treats that would otherwise be tossed away! Happy grilling!