What is garlic scape, you may ask? It is the “flower stem” or “flower stalk” (they do not produce “real” flowers) of the garlic plant where the seed head (bulbil) of the garlic bulb is formed (I do not have a photo, just imagine a tiny, tiny head of garlic on a stalk, very cute). If allowed to mature the seed head will burst open to reveal the tiniest of “garlic cloves”.
To Harvest: Harvest while still young and tender. I wait until the scapes begin to curl, you can harvest earlier or later, keep in mind they become more fibrous the longer they grow. I run my fingers down the stem and bend. The stem will snap off where it is tender.
Some gardeners believe the garlic bulbs will store better and longer if the scapes are not removed, also the scape will let you know when the garlic is ready for harvest (as the garlic bulb underground matures, the scape uncurl and becomes straight and tall to support the bulbil, garlic is ready for harvest at this point). Not removing the scape, however, will result in smaller garlic bulbs (the scape will divert the plants energy away from the underground bulb). I plan to make the observation this year with one of the garlic variety I am growing.
To Use: Garlic scape has a mild garlic flavor I use the whole tender stem and the bud but cut away and discard the pointy section. Combine it with other vegetables in a stir-fry, add to soup (like you would scallion), thinly sliced and add to salad and salad dressing (like you would shallots), add to egg dishes, make pesto, their uses are endless.
I frequently allow some of the scapes to continue to grow and form cute tiny heads of garlic called bulbils. Harvest the bulbils while they are still tightly formed and add to a stew. This is a one time, once a year special treat.
Lettuce cimmaron, an heirloom variety, is a Romaine type lettuce that is tender and sweet, great to make Caesar salad with. I needed the space so harvested 7 heads. Removed and cooked the more matured outer leaves (like spinach cooks down to very little). Peeled and sliced the stems and used in cooking (like celtuce), it is delicious in salad too. Only the heart of each head was used in a salad.
Wilted Lettuce Cimmaron with Garlic Scape
½ – 1 pound lettuce cimmaron, washed and cut into bite-sized sections (I peeled and used the stems also) (Romaine lettuce is very good too)
4 – 6 garlic scapes, cut into about ½ inch lengths
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 – 2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1. Add oil to preheated wok or frying pan. Add garlic scape and stif-fry until scapes turn a bright green color, 1 – 2 minutes.
2. Add salt and lettuce, stir-fry until lettuce is just wilted (do not overcook). Stir in sesame oil and seeds. Serve hot or at room temperature.
NOTE: This is a very basic and simple treatment of my freshly harvested lettuce (garden to wok within an hour). If desired, add the following alone or in combination: oyster sauce, chili sauce, lemon juice, grated fresh ginger, crumbled crisp bacon, dried cranberries, …
With all freshly harvested veggies, especially the leafy ones, I like to do very simple preparation to bring out the fresh sweet, delicate flavor.
Not a pretty dish but a tasty one, really tasty, I kept eating and eating and consumed a bit too much roughage, you know what I mean.
Copyright © by Norma Chang
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