Mmmm, Scapes!

The garlic scapes have just started coming in.  They   have an even shorter season than the strawberries - it helps that there's only one per plant.  The scape is the seed stalk that the plant sends up in late May or so, signaling the start of serious bulb formation.  If it is left on the plant, the bulb will be much smaller because the plant's energy is divided between bulb and top seeds.  Most people snap it off to make a bigger bulb - although, if you read up on garlic culture, there are many, and ferocious, points of view on both whether or not to snap, and exactly when is best.  In my experience, leaving the scape intact definitely results in a small bulb - often 1-1.5" diameter.  

One consideration is that, with herbs, and I include garlic in that category, often the flavor is best when concentrated.  According to my serious garlic book, Growing Great Garlic, the flavor is hands-down better with scapes on - but virtually everyone sells garlic by weight or size, not flavor so that's really only helpful if it's for personal use.  And you don't mind peeling small cloves.  

If you do snap them off, the next question is - when?  Some say as soon as there's enough to snap off, some say when it curls, some say when it stands up straight.  Growing Great Garlic says that they've come to believe it's best to snap after the scape stands (it will curl over, in a complete loop, and then eventually, right before harvest time, just straighten right up - pretty neat!) because they've found the bulb keeps much longer, and has great flavor, even though it's a bit smaller.  In general, the hardnecks don't store for as long as the softnecks, so this is definitely a consideration for many..

Personally, I snap them once they're out long enough to use them.  My criteria is actually productivity of the scape itself, which I haven't seen addressed anywhere.  We love scapes - they are at least as good as asparagus, and come right when the asparagus is dwindling.  We drizzle them with oil and balsamic vinegar, roast or broil them unitl they start to wrinkle a bit, and they are sooo good!  I also pickle them - they are fantastic as a really sweet-sour-hot-garlic pickle - some of you may be familiar with Wickles, a southern brand of pickles that are amazing.  I've found a knock-off recipe (Google is great!) and I just leave out the garlic since that's what the pickle actually is.  We're calling them "scapickles" :)  Kinda medical-sounding, but still fun...

So, my goal in picking scapes is to actually get scapes, unlike large-scale growers.  I like to harvest them when I can get a good 12" of useable stem, and that has always made nice bulbs for me.  Also, my only hardneck varieties (ones that make scapes - the softnecks don't, hence the name) are Elephant, which sells quickly so I don't have to store it, and Music, which keeps up to a year anyway, so I'm not worried about extending that!  I harvest within just a few days of the scape appearing, and if I do it right - pulling slow and steady - I can often get  them to pop free at least 6-8" down inside the stem - the most tender part!  

I've gotten about 18 or so jars pickled so far, and there's probably scapes coming for another week.  We will start eating them pretty heavily now - I only need another few jars to be sure of getting to next year's harvest.  

The spring food checklist:

Strawberries - almost done

Garlic Scapes - almost done

Carrots - still going strong

Honey - next weekend?




They do look really cool in flower arrangements as well.

They really are neat flowers.

They really are neat flowers. Occasionally I miss one of the Elephant scapes, and it is such a pretty lavender ball. Bees love them, too!

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