Have you ever tried garlic scapes, those spiral stems that appear in public markets and specialty stores around mid-June? If the answer is no, I invite you to try out this tasty delight.
Harvesting for this precious “flower” is done around summer solstice, when it is still in bud-form, so that the energy of the plant will remain in the bulbs, and they will continue their optimal growth. Once picked, the bulbs will be removed from the stems, and the spiral stems will be ready to be eaten. The bulbs are then harvested themselves in August. In this way, the fields can produce two crops of garlic.
In the past the stems were put into the field for composting, but for about ten years now these stems have begun being sold fresh in public markets, though only available for a couple of weeks a year. Some growers sell preserved scapes in a can or jar, ready to be consumed.
The texture of the garlic scape is tender, similar to that of tender green beans. If we compare it to garlic, the flavor is much more delicate and the intensity more subtle (a bit like asparagus). In addition, it is easier to digest, and doesn’t give one bad breath.
We can add these raw stems to salads, just like with green onions. They are also excellent in pesto. Of course they can be used to replace garlic in any recipe. Personally, I like to prepare garlic scapes with butter or simply spread it on slices of country-style bread, according to the same principles as bruschetta.
They can be stored very well in the refrigerator, in a paper or perforated plastic bag, for about a month. Since the season is short, it’s worth preserving some for later: you can chop up the stems and put them in ice cube molds filled with olive oil, then leave them in the freezer until the oil freezes. Next take them out of the mold and store them in a plastic bag in the freezer for up to a year.
Garlic scapes can be a possibility for those who have to follow a low-FODMAP* diet. In the United States the company Gourmend Food markets a garlic scapes powder that has received Monash certification for being low in FODMAPs. So, even if the fresh stems have not yet been tested by Monash, we can hope that it is low-risk to use a small amount of them.
*FODMAPs are fermentable carbohydrates that are partly responsible for causing symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). For more info, read this article.