If you’re a home gardener or a frequent shopper at regional farmers markets, there’s no escaping the fact that right now is scape season. I’m talking about those pungent soon-to-be-a-flower on top of the green spike that all garlic pushes up this time of year.
I just harvested all of ours a few days ago, and if you want to have the best yield of succulent garlic bulbs in a few weeks, go ahead and cut off the scapes from your garlic plants.
Even if you don’t choose to eat the scapes or give them away, go ahead and cut them off because if the scape blossoms into the flower it’ll rob the underground bulb of some of its most delightful properties. I choose to consume the scapes because they’re delicious and loaded with healthful things like plant protein, vitamin C and calcium.
According to some research, scapes, like the plant they come from, garlic, can help to control high blood pressure and high cholesterol, while also assisting in preventing heart disease. Reduction in bodily inflammation and immune system support also weigh in heavily as consumption benefits.
If you’re concerned, in folklore scapes, like garlic, will prevent vampires from dining on you. Even better, some cultures believe eating scapes and garlic bulbs will prevent you from being possessed. Apparently even demons have a threshold for interactions with malodorous, odiferous malfeasance.
Keeping yourself safe from vampires and demons by eating garlic scapes can utilize an assortment of recipes and preparations. You can blanche scapes, roast scapes, boil scapes, grill scapes, serve then on salads, mix them into soups and stews, candy them, pickle them, make pesto with them or do what I’ve just done with the assistance of my wife: make garlic scape butter.
I’m going to sound braggadocios right now, but honestly, the garlic scape butter we just made from our homegrown scapes is a delightful treat for the taste buds. It’s easy to make garlic scape butter the way we did it. And best of all, the butter can be preserved by freezing it in small 4- or 8-ounce canning jars.
I went to market and got 2 pounds of rolled farm-fresh butter. You can use any kind of butter, but farm-fresh is truly some of the best. Allow the butter to sit out overnight in a covered container. In our case, we also had to put the butter behind a closed pantry door or the cat would have gobbled it all up and then we’d have had a sick cat. Cut the fresh scapes off the stalk in the morning.
It’s always better to harvest first thing in the morning because the scapes will have the most amount of moisture content at that time. Moisture in scapes and other vegetables is a good thing.
Take the harvested or bought scapes and chop them up as you would parsley. Next, take your butter, and in a blender or bowl, gently pulse or stir your scapes into the softened butter until the plant material is evenly spread throughout the butter. The process of pulsing in a blender also offers the added benefit of whipping the butter, making it light and full of air. The yellow butter will blend with the scapes creating a very light green end product that tastes rich, mellow and not unlike chives. Put aside a portion to use now and freeze the rest if you please.
My wife and I both licked the bowl and utensils like we had made some sort of cake batter. It’s delicious.
Seemingly defiant to all advice by cardiac specialists, we used salted butter to make our gourmet treat. We feel moderation is the key, and let’s face it, we know where the butter came from. It came from a cow. We like and believe in cows. Who knows where those fake butter products come from and what’s really in them?
Spread it on toasted bread, place a dab on a grilled steak, use on potatoes of any kind, melt for dunking and drenching seafood; it’s the best. If you’d like to watch a YouTube video showing how we made our garlic scape butter, just go to this link, youtu.be/KfU9-RSb7mA.
FYI: The life cycle of garlic in most people’s gardens is as follows: Plant last year’s saved garlic bulbs in fall at least a month or so before the first hard freeze. I plant ours in October. You’ll begin to see growth poke above ground by early March in most cases. Keep the garlic crop well-watered throughout spring.
In June and July, depending on the variety, you’ll see the scapes growing because the plant is trying to flower. You don’t want to grow flowers, though. You want to grow succulent garlic bulbs. So you cut off the flower pod, the scape, and then use it as a food product.
Sometime in early summer, not long after removing the scapes, you’ll see the leaves of the plants begin to decline and turn yellow. This is very similar to the life cycle of other bulbed plants like daffodils and tulips. Rule of thumb is that when the leaves are about three-quarters yellowed, wait for the driest, non-rainy weather time and harvest your bulbs by carefully digging around them and gently uprooting them to lift them out.
Store them in a cool, dry place to cure them. Don’t be afraid to use some for cooking anytime you like. If you want to perpetuate your crop, just put some bulbs aside to take apart and replant in fall. Growing and harvesting garlic is easy, fun, highly nutritious and satisfying because, in essence, you get two annual crop yields, the scapes and the bulbs.
The process also puts you in touch with nature’s clock and progression and I find that to be very calming and meaningful.
Dave Kline is an award-winning writer, photographer, show host and producer, singer-songwriter, travel guide and community advocate. Reach him at [email protected].
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