At a recent garden club meeting, Ian Lai, executive director of Richmond Food Security Society, spoke to us about cooking and feasting on Chinese vegetables. Many of these vegetables can be grown in our own gardens such as pac choi, mustard greens, napa cabbage and many other delicious greens.
One of the vegetables he highlighted, is growing in most of our gardens. Garlic scapes. After his description on how to cook these unusual looking plants, we couldn’t wait to harvest these delectable greens.
You will notice in early to mid June that your garlic is sending up a stalk in from the centre of the leaves. The stalk is thicker than the leaves. These pretty spiral stems are edible.
Garlic scapes are the flower bud of the garlic plant. If left on the garlic plant, the scapes will flower and then seed. You can even eat the tiny seeds.
The bud should be removed late June though, to encourage the garlic bulbs to thicken up. Scapes are delicious to eat. They taste just like garlic. They can be used in exactly the same way as garlic in any recipe.
To cut your scapes, wait until it grows up and begins to curl or spiral upward. At that point, cut the stalk as far down as you can with cutting any leaves off.
Garlic scapes are very versatile. Try them sautéd, roasted, pickled, added to soups and more. The most tender tops of the stem and buds are delicious chopped up raw.
Garlic lovers can roast or grill entire scapes to serve as a side dish. To do so, lay the scapes on an oiled cookie sheet and roast at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or toss the scapes in olive oil, season with salt and pepper and place on a medium-hot grill, turning occasionally until they are slightly brown.
Garlic scapes keep well in a plastic bag in the fridge for two to three weeks. They will keep a few days in a glass of cool water, on a counter in a cool room. You will need to change the water daily.
You can even add scapes to your flower bouquets for a really unique arrangement.
Remember that not all of your scapes will come at once, so visit your garden regularly until all the scapes have been removed.
Our garden has these tender treats ready for harvest. Having never tried garlic scapes before, I now can’t get enough of them. Daily trips out to our garden always include harvesting this green stem. And, because I am cutting them, in couple of months, we will be enjoying thick juicy garlic bulbs.
So one of the huge benefits of belonging to your local garden club is gaining valuable knowledge on how to get all the benefits out of the sweat and sore muscles you put in tending to your gardens.
Lynda Pasacreta is the current president of the Richmond Garden Club. For more information about joining the club and upcoming events, visit richmondgardenclub.ca.