By Chef Sabrina Sexton
In addition to my standard share, every week my CSA offers “extras” for free. Often, these are herbs or chile peppers, but a few weeks ago they were giving away garlic scapes. The green, curling tops of garlic plants, scapes are usually trimmed off the plant in mid summer, helping to produce a larger garlic bulb at harvest. Once destined for the compost pile, recent years have seen a growing interest in this seasonal product, and many chefs now use them in recipes as an alternative to garlic cloves.
I’ve known about garlic scapes for years, but no one I knew had used them much in their cooking. Tasting one, I found it reminded me of a cross between a scallion and traditional garlic. Crunchy, almost like a string bean, with a green, fresh garlic flavor, I immediately thought this was potentially more versatile than garlic cloves.
I experimented with the scapes over several weeks. Trimmed and cut into 2″ pieces, I used them in a stir fry. Chopped into pea-size pieces, I mixed them with fresh corn kernels, string beans and basil to make a modern succotash. Pureed in the blender with mustard, oil, lemon juice and scallions, they produced a flavorful vinaigrette. This was probably my favorite way to prepare the the garlic scapes. Pureed with the other ingredients, the scapes made the dressing almost creamy and gave the vinaigrette a garlicky flavor, without the harsh, pungent quality raw cloves can have.
After several weeks in my refrigerator, I feared their lifespan was getting short and I decided to pickle the scapes I had left. Packed in a brine of vinegar, salt and sugar, I now have enough scapes to make a few more batches of vinaigrette.
Garlic Scape Vinaigrette
Makes 1 cup
- 3 garlic scapes, tops removed and chopped
- 1 large scallion, trimmed and chopped
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Combine the scapes, scallion, mustard and lemon juice in a blender. Puree until smooth.
- While the blender is running, slowly add the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Pickled Garlic Scapes
Makes 1 pint
- 12-16 garlic scapes, tops removed, stems trimmed
- 1 jalapeno or pinch of red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
- 2 sprigs fresh dill
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- ¼ cup kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- Place the garlic scapes into a pint jar. Pack them tightly, curling the scapes and cutting them, if needed, to help them fit. Add the jalapeno or red pepper flakes, peppercorns and dill.
- Combine the water, cider vinegar, kosher salt and sugar in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the salt and sugar are dissolved.
- Pour the brine over the garlic scapes, filling the jar to the top. Make sure all the scapes are submerged in the brine.
- Cool and store covered in the refrigerator. They can be eaten immediately, but are best after 2-3 days of brining.