The Fulton Street Farmers Market opens the first Saturday in May. It always amuses me that once we ask our customers how their winter went, the next question they ask is, “When is garlic?” Now mind you, garlic is two months away, yet it is one of the first things on their minds. This kind of hard- won enthusiasm is not be taken for granted. We let them know that scapes are first, followed by the garlic bulbs approximately three weeks later.
You might ask, “What is a garlic scape?” For the uninitiated, a scape is the flower head, or bulbil of the garlic bulb. In late spring each bulb sends up a bright green flower head as one way of reproduction. If left to grow these bulbils will develop small seeds, after the bloom dies back. Garlic growers cut off these bulbils or scapes for two very good reasons. One, if left on the plant the bulb will send all its energy to the bulbil and seed development rather thank bulb size; and two the scapes themselves are a delicious culinary treat. We consider them to be one of the first signs of spring, in the same league as asparagus, new potatoes and peas. The garlic scape is wonderful in eggs, potato salads and pastas, to mention just a few. It has a texture similar to asparagus or green onion, yet tastes like garlic. Milder than the cloves themselves, it is versatile and delicious. When purchasing scapes make sure they are bright green in color and snap when you break off a small piece near the end of the stalk. The smell will indicate the strength of the garlic. There is also a white flower pod near the upper part of each scape. These are tough, not edible and should be discarded.
Garlic scapes also freeze well. Cut them on the diagonal in one inch lengths. Next simply blanch them in boiling water for 15 seconds, then plunge them in an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Spin them dry in a salad spinner or pat them kindly with a tea towel. They can now be put in freezer bags or a container for future use. The culinary uses are virtually limitless. Use them whenever you want the mild taste of garlic.
Spring Potato Salad
- 2 lbs small new potatoes, skins on, halved
- 1/2 cup garlic scapes, chopped
- 4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp white wine or sherry vinegar
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup pitted and halved kalamata olives
- Boil new potatoes in salted water until just done, approximately 10-12 minutes. Drain and cut in half again as soon as they can be handled.
- Saute garlic scapes in 1 Tbsp olive oil for 2 minutes.
- Mix the remaining 3 Tbsp olive oil, Dijon mustard, vinegar and salt/pepper for dressing. Add olives and dressing to warm potatoes.
- Toss gently together to combine.
“Good food ends with good talk.”