If you want to know what’s in, hit up one of three sources: hipsters, grannies, or farm folk.
Garlic scapes are hip. And I can see why: crisp, twirly and oh-so-rarely available. These flower stems and unopened buds of the garlic blossom pop up in late spring/early summer, and are trimmed off in order to encourage the development of a nice, plump-bottomed garlic head beneath the soil. Lazy scallywags chuck or compost ’em. Wise folks eat them.
As SPUD Vancouver tweeted a couple weeks back, scapes are “the Pacific Northwest’s new hipster food with limitless uses”. Of course, scapes are actually no newer than, well, garlic, as was well known by the little old lady who lives down the road from fella’s mum, who gave us several bunches of “hipster food” from her own little garden patch last year.
Aside from making great edible jewelry, garlic scapes make for wonderful food. I spent much of May and all of June chopping them up and tossing them in with boiled new potatoes, in a bit of olive oil and serving with fresh herbs.
Garlic scapes can be used as you would regular cloves of garlic. They’re less concentrated in their garlicy flavour; I usually use one scape where I’d usually use one clove. Eaten raw, they’re less harsh than fresh cloves, though I most like them in lightly stir-fried or pan-fried (with little oil) dishes, so they get ever-so-slightly browned in places.
Scapes are one of those things you’ll need to hit up your farmer’s market, farm stall, CSA box*, or back yard of old lady you know who happens to be growing garlic, to find. I’ve never seen it in a regular store, probably because most of the store-bought garlic around here has taken a leisurely journey over from China in order to be here with us. When you see scapes, you know fresh garlic heads are not too far behind. You also know you can stop buying those journeyed-from-afar substandard garlic cloves and get down to the satisfying business of enjoying local goodies.
I was perfectly content continuing to use my scapes with potatoes and stir-fries, until I learned a little more. I stopped in at my very favourite teeny farm stand, Keith’s, home of the very first Honour Box I ever saw. Usually the honour box is the only method of payment around, but occasionally, Keith himself is there. On this particular visit, Keith saw me gathering up the best (i.e., biggest) scape bunches on display. Once he felt assured that I a. knew what they were and b. knew what to do with them, he cracked open a sample of the good stuff and offered me a taste. Home-made garlic scape jam (which I would wager was made by a Mrs. Keith).
And it. Was. Awesome.
Awesome is a word I don’t believe in using freely, mostly because I am jaded, and rarely feel awe as frequently as most people seem to. This sweet, savoury, spicy, tangy deep brown, almost purple-y mouthful of slightly crunchy taste bud pleasure, however, warrants the word.
After a chat with a community garden friend who mentioned an extra special garlic scape jam made with balsamic vinegar, and a bit of online research, I reached the conclusion that this apparent classic from Bernardin–who makes canning supplies, and also, apparently, amazing recipes–was the main one around.
Scape jam was ridiculously easy, and entirely worth it. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so I rarely bother jamming up berries (which I’d rather down fresh anyway), but I did try canning tomatoes last year, and found it entirely easy, so I felt this recipe would be accessible for me.
Technically, you’re supposed to use a canner, which is basically a giant pot with some type of grid or other way of keeping the glass jars full of molten fruit/veg sugar away from the bottom of the pot. Fella’s mum taught me to can, and used a home-made canner that consists of her own particular giant pot, and a small wire cooling rack attached to a few little pieces of wood. It worked like a charm.
Because I’m hardheaded and didn’t feel like splashing out for a new canner that would take up valuable real estate in our cozy (read: small) apartment and serve only one function, I just used my big soup pot (you know, the one I classily serve all my soups at, right at the table) and tossed some extra canning rings on the bottom to keep the jars raised. No jars cracked or burst, so all’s well that ends well. However, I wouldn’t say it’s the smartest thing I’ve ever tried, and I would have been pretty heartbroken if I’d lost some of my precious jam.
I was tempted to be further stubborn, and use only 3 cups of sugar instead of the 3 1/2 the recipe calls for, but decided against it, in the end. I’m glad, too. It’s sweet, but not sickly-sweet, as I find fruit jams can be.
So far, I’ve been feasting on scape jam in sandwiches, often with my favourite variety of Daiya. I imagine it would be great with a whole grain cracker, or as a base in a fancy wrap. Head on over to Bernardin’s recipe page to check out how to make some yourself. It’s worth it!
* CSA: Community Supported Agriculture. Also sometimes called veggie boxes or weekly boxes. Refers to systems where you prepay for several weeks of fresh produce from a farm (usually a small farm that grows a variety of crops), then pick up or receive your share of the harvest. Thus named because, literally, members of the community help support the agriculture. Prepaying directly to the farm and farmers ensures that they have a secure market for their crops. Often CSAs are organic, and they frequently contain unusual or heirloom veg.