The Great Scape

Sunday Jul 16 2017

One of the bonuses of growing plants for seed is that you also get to enjoy their fruit – think of squash that you scoop seeds out of or melons that you spit seeds from. Even kale plants, in their second year, will let you steal a few early tasty greens before the plant goes to flower. Some vegetables aren’t as generous, but when you save beans or radishes, for instance, you can still take advantage of them at more than one life stage – snap and dry beans, leaving some for seed, or by eating some of your radish pods before they start to dry down.

Garlic has the great advantage of being a wonderful multiplier – one bulb gives you several “seeds” to plant, and from that, many more cloves for eating and planting. Another terrific bonus with garlic is the edible flower stalk, or “scape”.

Oh, the beauty of scapes in a landscape never escapes me…

Most scapes in Maritime garlic patches should have curled around by now indicating that it’s time to be pulled. Scapes are a sign of things to come and removing the scape is your way of the plant to put energy into the bulb instead of flower production. So, while you’re busy pulling your scapes and talking to your garlic plants in the garden, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Pull, don’t cut (if you can)

If you get it at just the right time after it loops around, you can often pull the scape right out without lifting the whole plant out of the ground. This is the same method used for rhubarb. It’s said that pulled (rather than cut) stalks give your plants the right message about what to do next.

Garlic scapes will spray!

Some of that tasty juice will likely end up on your clothes while picking your scapes, so if you don’t want to smell of garlic all day, make sure to wash your arms or change your shirt before heading out. On the other hand, eating (or covering yourself in garlic juice) is said to keep away bugs and hungry mosquitoes…so it’s really up to you.

Scapes are long-lasting and versatile

While they are superb straight from the garden, scapes will also keep well once picked. Store in a tied plastic bag in the refrigerator for best flavour. When your harvest garlic scapes, you’re not just doing something good for the plant, you’re also getting an early allium to cook with. Scapes can be stored for several weeks in the fridge or they can be grilled, frozen or pickled.

My favourite ways to use scapes

- Chop and sauté with butter (use as the base of every dish)
- Throw scapes, fresh basil, olive oil and a bit of lemon and salt in a food processor. Adjust quantities to your liking for the best pesto (especially pulled from the freezer in the winter months).
- Trim ends and pack into jars with apple cider vinegar, water, dill, peppercorns and salt. Process jars and show off your pickled scapes with every meal 'til next scape season.

Have fun!

p.s. If you’re a big fan of scapes, I recommend planting Susan Delafield or Carleton Queen. Both varieties seem to have the longest and largest scapes of the varieties we grow. 



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