Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Great Scape

Many years ago when we were living in the Kootenays Jay returned from one of his numerous out-of-town road trips and deposited a bag of curly green things on the kitchen counter. When I asked what on earth they were he told me the guy selling them said they were the tops of garlic plants. He assured Jay that they weren't poisonous, and in fact tasted good in everything from salads to stir fries. I had my doubts about the strange tangle of greens poking out of the top of the bag, but decided they were worth a try. It was the beginning of a culinary love affair.

Fast forward a couple decades and I now grow my own garlic. Lots and lots of garlic. This year's crop is the biggest yet at around 100 plants. I have my trip to Korea last year to thank for this increase in garlic production. Koreans love their garlic, and as a result they are experts at growing it. One thing I noticed when I looked out on field after field of garlic when we were on Jeju Island was how close together the plants were. It was way closer than what my gardening books recommended. I decided that from now on I was going to grow garlic the Korean way.

Garlic crop on Jeju Island, Korea 2010
Garlic scapes seem to be growing in popularity. They are sold at many stalls at the Kamloops Farmer's Market at this time of the year, and articles and recipes featuring them are beginning to appear in numerous places. It is weird when something you have done or used for years get "discovered" and becomes trendy. This isn't the first time it has happened to me. Knitting, homeschool, and international adoption would also fall into this category. This makes me either a woman ahead of her time, or one hopelessly out of sync with the world. Most days it feels like the latter.

Here is one of our favourite ways to eat garlic scapes. This is a very basic pizza recipe, but don't be fooled. What it lacks in ingredients it more than makes up for in flavour. I use my bread machine to make a basic pizza dough.

Once I have that started I head out to the garden to cut some scapes. The scape is the immature flower stalk of the garlic plant. Ideally you want to cut these off once they begin to form so the plant's energy can be directed to the developing bulb. It is an added bonus that they also happen to be both edible and delicious.

I cut the top part of the scape off because I find it a bit tough. Then I use kitchen shears to cut the rest of the stalk into pieces about an inch long. I also find something else in my garden to use as a topping. This time it was basil, last time it was spinach. I just go with whatever happens to be ready to harvest.

Put the cut pieces of garlic scapes into a bowl with a small amount of olive oil and sea salt. Stir.

If you are using a pizza stone, which I highly recommend, now is the time to place it in the oven. Turn your oven to 450F.  Roll out the pizza dough.

Sprinkle your wooden pizza paddle with a liberal amount of corn meal. Trust me on this - you don't want to skimp or your pizza will not slide off the paddle and onto your pizza stone. Rather, it will get all scrunched up, fold over on itself, and resemble a calzone that is having a very bad day.

Place your rolled out dough onto the pizza paddle. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Top with the garlic scapes and basil (or whatever else you have picked for a topping). And no, it isn't an oversight. There is no sauce added to this pizza. I told you it was basic!

Slide carefully onto the hot pizza stone.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the cheese starts to brown.

When it is ready I use the pizza paddle to transfer the pizza from the stone to a pizza pan. Let it cool for a few minutes, slice, and enjoy.


  1. Ha, I was just telling my friend that she could eat the tops of her garlic where the flower was forming, I even remembered that they were called scapes, and she looked at me like I was loony!

  2. I got garlic scapes in my CSA share last week and I'm in love! They're like green beans filled with roasted garlic and that's just the best thing I can imagine. If I get more next week, I'll definitely try them on some pizza (though I can't do without my tomato sauce).

  3. I have some in my garden, just a few, since I only planted a bit of garlic. Sounds yummy, thanks for the recipe.

  4. Kristie,

    This is the first time I see how garlic looks like growing. It's beautiful the way it curls 360 degree like a roller coaster.

    About ahead of time and hopelessly out of sync with the world, I can relate to that. Big Smiles.

  5. First glance at the title and the picture had me thinking the post would be about lovely landscapes. The garlic scape was completely unknown to me. Now I'll be looking for them at our local farmer's market--which may not have them, as it is nowhere near as well stocked as your's.

    The commercially sold sauceless pizzas I've tried were not very good--the cheese was awful. But your home creation looks very tasty.

    The world may be out of sync with you, but there's hope for us still.

  6. @kate - You should tell your friend that if she doesn't want the garlic tops you will take them!

    @bigmonkeypie - Was this the first time you tried them? I like your description of them being like green beans filled with garlic!

    @Mary Lou - If you try the scapes I bet you plant even more garlic in your garden next year!

    @Keiko - You could try growing some garlic for next season. A couple dozen plants don't take up very much space. Here they get planted in the fall, but I am not sure about when you would plant them in California.

    Being out of sync has its plusses and its minuses! :-)

    @Ric - I think you would like this sauceless pizza. And I also think you should be able to find garlic scapes at your market if they are still in season. It is a very short window of opportunity they are available in.

    I will take heart in knowing there is hope for all of us that feel out of sync. :-)

  7. I think I bought some a few years ago when I first heard about them, but I remember them not impressing me at all and I never tried them again. They had NO flavor. This time, though, from the local farm, they were so amazing. My husband and I put garlic in everything anyway. I cut mine into about 1-inch pieces and sauteed them with some onions and tossed with some pasta. I found they added a lot of substance to the meal, which surprised me. It was much more filling than I expected.

  8. Wow, your photos are mouthwatering. I'd love to try that pizza, it looks delicious. Back in Slovenia, we love to grow our own vegetables. My mum used to have a big garden, but then the drought became worse every year and our fence was not good enough, deer managed to jump in and eat our cabbages and other delicacies. So she stopped with veggie gardening. One day, if I return, I will grow vegetables (probably the Kristie way) :)

  9. @bigmonkeypie - They definitely have to be fresh to be good. And they are really good with pasta, just like you have described.

    @MKL - Your poor mum! I would be so sad if I had to give up growing vegetables. Deer can be very destructive. We sometimes get them in our backyard, but not often. Bears are the more common visitors here! Do you have a small balcony at your apartment? If so you could try doing some container gardening. That is what Rebekah is trying right now at her place in Vancouver.

  10. Nope, at we don't have a balcony. Maybe next year, when we plan to move to a new place.

  11. Years ago, when I went to Paris, I made a visit to a couple. I met the couple before, and they were good friends of my friend. To my surprise, the wife was from a garlic farmer family in Lyon. The wife and I went to a vegetable store, and later, she made salad. To cut the story short, her salad dressing was wonderful! It was unexpected. She used many cloves of garlic, more than I ever thought of using for any dish. I don't remember every detail, but it was like any oil and vinegar recipe but with much garlic. She added a little dijon mustard. I use lemon instead of vinegar because I have a prolific lemon tree.

  12. I meant there's still hope for the world. =)

  13. Kristie... I know about scapes, and got some from our CSA last year.... but what are ramps? Wild garlic? I cannot remember!

    Barbara M/

  14. @Anonymous - I have never heard of ramps. ?? I have no idea!

  15. My son and his wife just picked a whole field of scapes for the Gleaners in Vernon the other day. Apparently, they're easy to pick because you don't have to bend over!

    That was the first I had heard of them. I want to plant some garlic in the fall. Any recommendations for what kind?

  16. @Aneta - I order the fall garlic sets from Veseys. It is a hardneck variety. If you order now they won't charge your card until they ship them this fall. That's neat that they were picking them for Gleaners!

  17. This year I made a garlic scape pesto (recipe from the internet) which was fantastic. We ate it with pasta, and home made pizza.

    Erin in PA

  18. @Erin in PA - It is funny you should mention the scape pesto. I am planning on making some up tomorrow. I haven't tried it before, so it is nice to hear it gets a good review from you!

  19. How I love garlic scapes. We add them to all of our sauteed veggies in the summer. I have a bag of them in the fridge right now.

  20. @Kate - Isn't it a shame they are only around for a few short weeks? I don't think I could ever get tired of them!

  21. Hi Kristie,
    We got garlic scapes in our first CSA share and haven't used them yet. I think I'm going to have them with pasta today -- so glad I found this post (came here from the" Fabulous and 50" group on Ravelry). Have a great day!

  22. @natureismytherapy - Welcome to my blog! It's nice to have you here. I hope you enjoy your scapes!