Ingredient Focus: Garlic Scapes

If you hear someone cry out that now is the season for the "scape", it's not a code word for some special underground item. In fact, it's just nickname for the garlic scape. They are to garlic bulbs what scallions are to onions and taste garlicky but with a fresher taste. The allium family (which includes garlic, leeks, chives and onions) grow their bulbs underground while the shoot or scape grows and curls its way up. You get a cooking two-fer with the garlic bulb and scape; both are great in savory recipes! Garlic scapes (also known as garlic tops, garlic flowers, or garlic spears) are curly green shoots that grow from garlic. Scapes are nutritious and used in Chinese, Thai, and Polynesian cuisine. Scapes are also used to aid digestion and help combat low energy. Low in fat, high in fiber, and containing only 30 calories per 100 grams, garlic is a healthy flavor-booster.

If you're looking to grow your own garlic scapes, just grow some garlic. Garlic scapes shoot out from the center of a garlic bulb. Cutting the scape off of the plant will allow the garlic bulb to conserve more energy for itself in its growing process and you get to keep what most farmers will just toss away. If you end up with a produce drawer in your refrigerator full of them, you can use the leftovers in a twist on classic pesto by pulverizing them with walnuts instead of pine nuts. You can also dice the scapes into scrambled eggs or mixed into a stir-fry with rice.

Using scapes in your cooking will allow you to get the garlicky zest without being too overwhelming. A little bit goes a long way! Use them in salads, stews, and mixed into some of your favorite sauces and salsas. Use garlic scapes like you would regular garlic; it serves as a great seasoning on top of pizza or sprinkled on some garlic bread.

Have you eaten garlic scapes?