"I eat them raw," said Sarah Wallsten, gesturing to the box of garlic scapes, long, curling shoots with small, light green and white knobs at the end. Wallsten was tending the Big Head Farm stand at last weekend's Oak Park Farmers Market.
"A lot of people aren't sure what to do with garlic scapes," said Wallsten, "but most people just sauté them in a pan."
Garlic scapes are the flower stems that grow from some varieties of garlic. They're frequently cut off so that more of the plant's energy is devoted to the blub below that can then be dried and then used just as you would the regular garlic you'd find in most grocery stores.
You don't need to cut off the scape, however, to get a bulb to develop, though the bulb may be a little smaller than it would if you cut off the scape early in the season. Some argue, however, that leaving the scape on the plant results in a blub that can be stored longer.
At $5/bunch at Big Head, garlic scapes are worth a try. We grow them in our garden, and find them a pleasant compliment to stir-fried vegetables. You can eat them raw as Wallsten does, or maybe just cut into a salad; you'll find the flavor much less intense than a clove of dried garlic. For most of us, however, cooking is the way to go.
You can chop garlic scapes and add them to scrambled eggs, but they would also work sautéed in butter and tossed with pasta. I can imagine putting some, cooked or raw, on top of pizza or cooking with chicken. We liked having them chopped in sautéed kale. Raw, their flavor is somewhat aggressive, but cooking will mellow them significantly.
Last weekend was only the second weekend that Big Head Farm had been represented at our Oak Park Farmers Market, and they were the only vendor we saw with garlic scapes.
"We didn't get many this year," said Wallsten, so if they sound intriguing, you may want to buy them next weekend…or you might miss your chance this year.