In the glorious warmth of summer on the homestead, I find that my garlic plants need some pruning. In order to get very large garlic bulbs, you must cut off the slender curly flower buds that are about to open (and cut them well before they form a flower!). These green buds are called garlic scapes. Once you start seeing these tasty little babies on top of your garlic plants, it’s time to cut them off and bring them inside for cooking or pickling. I want to inspire you to grow this easy plant, and also to cook and pickle garlic scapes!
Garlic scapes have a mild garlic taste when eaten fresh. They can be chopped small and steamed or used in stir fry among many other uses. They are also delicious in a simple scrambled egg or quiche dish. The flavor is similar to asparagus when they are cooked thoroughly, or if only lightly cooked they will retain a bit of a garlic flavor. You can make pesto with them by substituting scapes for basil in the recipe, but you still need to add garlic cloves for the garlic flavor that you are used to in pesto. Just add less cloves and taste as you go to make sure it’s not too spicy. You can add pureed scapes to salad dressing to make a sort of Goddess Dressing. Yum! I eat the unopened flower tips as well but some people find them to be too tough. This also depends on how young they are picked. As soon as you see a slender scape growing at the top of the plant, cut it off and it will be juicy and tender.
Garlic can be grown in a small backyard plot. Therefore almost anyone can grow their own scapes and bulbs! You can plant either fall garlic to harvest the next summer, or spring garlic for harvest during the current season. Check your favorite seed company’s website to see if they offer spring or fall garlic cloves for planting.
Garlic is extremely easy to grow and requires hardly any maintenance (other than cutting off the scapes in mid-summer for better clove yields). Garlic does need well draining soil, so compact clay will give you smaller bulbs. It is also harder to harvest garlic in sticky, clumpy clay soil. Garlic will grow even in part shade and is frost tolerant. There are many unique varieties of garlic to grow, ranging from very complex mild Italian garlic flavors, to Russian garlic packing a very powerful garlic punch. The hardest part is deciding which varieties to grow! For a more detailed look at different garlic varieties, sauerkraut blogger Kirsten K. Shockey has written a great article about the different qualities and flavors of garlic (and garlic scapes).
One of my favorite ways to use garlic scapes is by pickling or lacto-fermenting them. This is so easy, even a 5 year old can do it! My son has helped me pickle foods since he was very young and can now do it on his own with no assistance.
Pickled Garlic Scapes
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
1 ½ tbsp sea salt
1 dried chile pepper or fresh herbs
1 bay leaf (optional) - for more crunchy scapes
About 10 garlic scapes cut to fit your canning jar with 1-inch headroom
1 canning jar 1 litre/1 qt size
1. Cut your scapes to fit in the jar or knot them if they are very curly.
2. Pack your cut up scapes tightly in the jar with 1” of headroom.
3. Pour filtered water over the scapes leaving 1” at the top and pour in the sea salt.
4. Push the chile pepper and bay leaf into jar.
5. Put the lid on and shake the jar a few times to ensure the salt is mixed in. Then loosen the lid and leave on the counter inside of a larger container (in case you get leaking coming out).
6. Depending on the room temperature of your home, you can leave this pickle out for between 4-14 days to ferment at room temperature. Burp the jar every 6 hours and don’t tighten the lid, leave it fairly loose.
7. When the brine is cloudy and the scapes have turned a dull green color, put it in the fridge and either eat immediately or age for 2-6 weeks. The flavor gets stronger the longer you leave it in the fridge to age!
Rosemary Hansen is an author, homesteading Mama, and a chef. She has spent the last 10 years “homesteading” in the city. She and her family have just started their off-grid homestead in rural British Columbia, Canada. Her books, Grow a Salad In Your City Apartment and Rosemary’s Natural Cosmetic Guide are a great way to ease into a healthy, pure lifestyle. You can connect with Rosemary at her website: www.RosemaryPureLiving.com or on her YouTube channel. Read all of Rosemary's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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