Family Heirlooms – Garlic’s Great Scapes

I love getting two for the price of one – and no, I’m not talking about the clearance rack at the department store.  I’m talking about vegetation that offers more than one ingredient on the same plant.

Fresh cured garlic bulbs, roots and stems still attached.

Fresh cured garlic bulbs, roots and stems still attached.

One of my favorite examples is garlic.  The beautiful bright bulbs of garlicky goodness we pick up from the grocery store are, in fact, a bulb that has been plucked from beneath the dirt, after which it is allowed to dry (part of the process properly known as “curing,” much like you would meat) before storing or shipping.  The bulb and the roots stay below the surface of the ground, but out of that bulb grows the greens.

Here in Ohio, garlic sprouts out of the ground in early to mid Spring.  It’s right around Memorial Day when the plants sport a tall, thin stalk protruding from the center of the plant with a pointy tip at the end.  This, my friends, is known as a garlic scape.  If left alone, the bud at the end of the scape will eventually open up to reveal a garlic flower.  The flower can be pollenated to produce seeds, which is one of two ways that garlic can reproduce (the other being separating the bulbs into cloves and planting the cloves as you would seeds; pretty cool, right?).  However, energy going into producing flowers and seeds is plant energy wasted when what you really want is to plump up the cloves.  That being the case, once the scape has reached an acceptable size, it is chopped off, allowing the remaining plant to continue to grow and eventually begin to dry and turn brown before being dug up.

What do you do with a garlic scape?  You can find all sorts of ideas on this grand Interweb of ours, but most of the ideas boil down to grilling them whole, sautéing them chopped, or pureeing them into sauces like pesto.  Whichever you choose, I think you’ll be feeling pretty good when you grab that bundle of scapes from the farm market stand as on-lookers gaze in wonder, asking themselves, “What in the world are those?” #score

There are other examples of twofers you might be interested in knowing:

·         If you were to grow cilantro in your garden, chances are good the plant will transition from foliage to flowering when the mercury rises in the middle to late summer.  These flowers produce seeds, and these seeds – left to dry on the plant – are what we in the States call coriander (of course, in Britain, the call the fresh plant coriander as well, but that’s just confusing).

Piles and piles of edible flowers, ready to be stuffed and fried.

Piles and piles of edible flowers, ready to be stuffed and fried.

·         Squash blossoms – the male flowers from squash plants – offer some delicious options; they can be sautéed or (my personal favorite) stuffed, battered, and deep fried.  Yes, squash blossoms are God’s ravioli!  If growing squash in the garden, you’re best bet for blossoms are from summer squash varieties (like zucchini), grabbing only the males (the ones that don’t produce fruit) and plucking them as early in the day as possible (just before they open is perfect).