I’ve been growing garlic for years – it’s one of the few vegetables that I consistently have in my garden, and I can usually grow enough that we only need to buy a few heads in the spring to tide us over. I used to grow softneck, but I discovered Rocambole hardneck garlic about 5 years ago and have grown it exclusively ever since – I think it has a better flavor, and it’s often much easier to peel.
One major difference between softneck and hardneck is that hardneck puts up flower stalks in the spring. If you leave them on, the flowers turn into little clusters of bulbils, taking energy from the main bulb, so it’s best to cut them off – I haven’t always been good about this, but I usually make it out there at some point, haphazardly whack off the flower scapes and compost them.
But this year! This year I’ve been reading food blogs, and I’ve discovered something new. Turns out, if you pick the scape before it blooms and hardens, you can eat it! I have never seen this information in a cookbook, not even my Alice Waters book. So last week, when I saw the scapes coming up from my little garlic plot, I made sure I got right out there with my clippers and gathered up a good handful. I wasn’t sure what to do with them, but they seem to get treated rather like asparagus or green beans, so I decided to try a really straightforward approach for our first attempt: olive oil and salt, and a quick toss on a hot grill.
J had seasoned a boneless leg of lamb with garlic and lemon juice, then grilled it until it was nice and crispy on the outside. Then we tossed on some Japanese eggplant and the garlic scapes. They seemed to grill nicely, although they have a tendency to try to slip between the grates.
The verdict? They were fun, with a very pleasant green garlic flavor. We discovered that the sheaths covering the flower buds are not good to eat – very tough and stringy – but if you pull on them they pop right off, and there’s a bit of tasty stuff rather like an artichoke leaf right at the base of the sheath. The stem is tender, just a little firmer than a fresh asparagus stem. I think I won’t have any trouble trimming my garlic scapes in future years.