With the July 4th weekend behind us, we are now into the long summer days. On the farm, we are already midway through the season, and we have seen the last of the cool spring crops, like lettuce, kale and turnips. Our tomatoes are still green, even in the hoop houses, but they are just a few hot days away from pouring in. In the meantime, we are harvesting lots of summer squash and the last of the green onions and enjoying the cameo appearance of the mysterious garlic scapes.
Garlic scapes are the green, flowering stalk of hard-necked garlic and are only available one or two weeks a year. The scape twists out of the center of the garlic plants like a snake. It is best to remove scapes when they are still tender, before they flower. This allows the garlic plant to spend energy making larger bulbs instead of flowering and setting seeds. The delicious garlic scapes are an added bonus.
The very short seasonal appearance of garlic scapes gives them almost celebrity status on the CSA and farmers market scenes. They are like rock stars passing through for one weekend a year. Also, only a small percentage of garlic that is grown in the US is hard-necked, scape-producing garlic, so they are pretty rare. If you missed them, don’t worry; they will be back next year—now you know to be on the lookout.
Garlic scapes consist of long, round, green stalks topped with green seed heads. The entire stalk and flower is edible, but it can sometimes have a tough part at the end which should be removed. The stalks are elegant and interesting enough that florists use them for contemporary arrangements. So if you get your hands on a bunch you can always put them in a vase while you decide what to do with them.
Garlic scapes, like garlic itself, can be used in millions of ways. You can mince them onto salads or sandwiches, toss with pasta and even turn them into a simple pesto. We enjoy them tossed with pasta and olive oil, chopped into stir fries and ground into pesto or roasted with other vegetables. Their flavor is milder than raw garlic and has more crunch, which creates all kinds of culinary possibilities.
This year, we have gotten into the habit of roasting vegetables with garlic scapes. It seems when you are too tired to decide what to make for dinner, tossing fresh vegetables with olive oil and putting them in the oven for about 45 minutes almost never fails. Children seem to appreciate the mixtures remaining distinct enough that they can pick and choose. Leftovers can be wrapped in a tortilla for an easy lunch to take on the go.
Summer is a time when many of us take a break from our routines and relax. Roasted summer vegetables are so flexible, they fit perfectly into summer. Roasting is a great way to use unfamiliar vegetables you might find in your CSA box or pick up at the market like garlic scapes or kohlrabi. Enjoy your summer, and don’t hesitate to grab something new at the market and experiment with it—it will probably mix wonderfully into your next batch of roasted vegetables.