Can garlic scapes replace ramps as the latest trendy vegetable? Funny how last month I posted about ramps since my interest always lies in trying something unique in the kitchen. My friend Sebastiaan recently shared some scapes that he grew and brought them to my attention as well. I had never heard of this vegetable and now plan to use both when they are available at the farmers’ markets. Like ramps, scapes are harvested for a very short period of time so keep your hawk eyes’ peeled for them in the late spring or very early summer.
So what the heck are garlic scapes you ask? Of course I had to research them on the mighty internet; reading other blogs and articles since I knew virtually zilch about them except what Bas had explained to me. Many descriptive definitions of scapes are available from old world dictionaries to Wikipedia. Botanically speaking, the scape shoot refers to the stem of the garlic plant. The central stalk grows straight up and usually makes a loopy twist or two. The garlic top is the scape or flower and has a bulge where bulbils will form.
Conventional farm wisdom is that if you want the plants’ energy to go into producing a large bulb, snip off the scape after it has made a loop. Apparently, not all garlic varieties appreciate the lopping of the loop. However, the longer the top grows, the tougher it gets and is no longer desirable for cooking. Beware of a tough stalk! Who knew? Just a fun fact in any case for a gardener like me.
The scape has a great deal of delicate garlic flavor, although the stalk itself never reaches the same level of pungency that the bulb does. Due to its tenderness, it is an ideal ingredient for many dishes. If you don’t grow garlic and are lucky enough to find them at the market, note that they can be frozen for later use as long as they have been refrigerated first.
My dear friends Miriam and Sebastiaan, the culinary adventurers, made pesto with scapes. It has a lovely texture to it that other herb or lettuce pestos do not. I created a pesto combining arugula in place of basil with scapes but the bite of the lettuce overwhelmed the subtle garlic flavor. Still tasty but I will share their recipe and call it:
Zijp Scape Pesto
• 15 or so scapes, trimmed and washed
• Salt and pepper to taste
• ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
• Juice of one lemon
• Olive oil
1. Combine the first 4 ingredients in a food processor. Pulse to mix.
2. With the motor running, pour the olive oil in a slow stream until the mixture forms a thick creamy consistency.
3. Serve on pasta of choice or in a bowl with olive oil to dip with bread.
Taking Zijp pesto even further, Miriam uses the leftover pesto to create a béchamel type sauce for a lasagna-like casserole. We shall call this:
MZ-K’s Vegetable Lasagna
• 6-8 lasagna noodles
• 3 T. all-purpose flour
• 3 T. butter
• 1- 1/2 cups hot vegetable stock
• ½ cup heavy cream
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 2 T. Zijp’s scape pesto
• 1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
• 1 cup carrots, shaved
• 2 cups fresh spinach
• 1 T. olive oil
• 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
• ½ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1. Prepare noodles according to package. Drain; set aside.
2. In a skillet, combine flour and butter over medium heat to create a light colored roux.
3. Remove pan from heat and add hot stock, whisking constantly to combine.
4. Return pan to medium-high heat and boil, stirring constantly for one minute.
5. Decrease heat to a simmer, slowly adding cream to desired consistency.
6. Add pesto to mixture.
7. Wash and slice zucchini with a mandoline and carrots with a vegetable peeler.
8. Sauté spinach in olive oil until slightly wilted.
9. Layer noodles, sauce then vegetables* for a total of 2 layers. Top with combination of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese mix.
10. Bake in pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes until slightly golden on top.
*You can prepare this dish with any vegetable of choice.
For a crostini topping, Miriam mixes the scape pesto with room-temperature goat cheese for a spread on the bread then tops it with strawberries and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. It has major pizzazz! You can use quartered cherry tomatoes and balsamic vinegar with this topping as well ~ garnish with a fresh cut basil leaf for a lovely presentation.
As I do with nearly every vegetable on the planet, oven roast or grill scapes as you would asparagus. Perhaps even stuff a chicken with scapes! I chop them and use in place of chives in recipes.
The possibilities for use are endless so look for garlic scapes at your local farmers’ market. As their popularity increases, so will their availability.
Please note! The photo at the start of this post is courtesy of Buckland Farm in Clearville, PA. I have been to the farm when Sebastiaan lived/worked there- Dan is a wonderful host/owner and enthusiastic about sustainable living and farming. Like them on Facebook or follow their blog at bucklandfarmpa.com. The piglets won’t disappoint you!