The Great Scape

You know that feeling, when you’ve been with someone a long time and you feel like you know every thing about them. You know every story, every place they lived, every band they loved, but then out of the blue, maybe at a party, maybe while you’re weeding the garden or drinking coffee, you hear a story you’ve never heard before. And in that split second, your eyes open wide and you feel ever so slight a sensation of frisson at the novelty, the mystery, the possibility.

Well, I’ve been with vegetables a long time – ever since I can remember, really. At this point, I thought I had tried every one, every which way. I thought I knew all of their seasons, all of their stories. But I was wrong. Oh, was I ever wrong. Last week at the Kingfield Farmers Market, I came upon a basket of bright green tangles that stopped me in my tracks.

Hello stranger. I looked at the sign on the booth: Swede Lake Farms and Global Garlic out of Watertown, MN. Hmmm. I still had no idea what I was looking at, so I asked, hardly able to take my eyes off the basket. I was told they were garlic scapes. I was shown a picture in a binder. I heard the words “olive oil, sea salt, hot grill, and caramelized”. I was sold.

With an unruly bunch climbing out of my basket, I couldn’t help showing them off to whoever would look. “Check these out!” I yelled at my brother, who had stopped through town on his drive out to Portland. “Look!” I shoved my basket in my husband’s face. I was gratified that no one knew what they were and that they were sufficiently impressed by the scapes’ beautiful verdant serpentine shape. Pardon me for waxing poetic, but they are drop dead GORGEOUS. I was so smitten, eating them was almost beside the point.

Like others in the allium family (leeks, scallions, chives), garlic grows as a bulb in the ground. As the bulb hardens, it sends up pliable green tendrils that curve and twirl like a veggie straight out of Alice in Wonderland. They are wacky and beautiful, and proof positive of Mother Nature’s flair for whimsy. If left alone, the scape becomes hard, crackly and white like a garlic peel and also inhibits the growth of the garlic bulb. So, in order to allow the bulbs to keep growing, the farmer lops them off and voila – scapes, handsome and toothsome!

We had a barbecue for Father’s Day and I couldn’t wait to try the scapes. We tossed them in olive oil and sea salt, threw them on a hot grill in a big pile, flipped them once and pulled them off when they looked slightly brown and caramelized. More of a method than a recipe, I love discoveries like these. The scapes were easy and delicious and every cliché applies: they were crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside, sweet and salty, with hardly a hint of their garlicy roots.

Knowing myself, I will probably never prepare garlic scapes in any fashion other than grilled (why mess with perfection?), but if you are so inclined, I am including some other recipes provided by the nice folks at Swede Lake Farms and Global Garlic. Our own Shari Danielson told me she finely chopped them before sauteing them in butter and adding lemon to create a lovely sauce for grilled Gulf shrimp. OK, I might have to try that.

I must warn you that there is probably only another week or so of scape availability, so get ye to a farmers market post haste! If you miss the scapes, don’t fret, there’s always next year. This, my friends, is one story worth waiting for.

Garlic Scape Pesto created by Erica Strait for Swede Lake Farms and Global Garlic

1 dozen garlic scapes

1 cup parsley

1 and ½ cup walnuts or pine nuts

1 cup Parmesan cheese

½ tsp sea salt

½ cup olive oil

1 Tbsp lemon juice

Process scapes and parsley in food processor. Add nuts and pulse till desired consistency then add parmesan, salt, olive oil, and lemon juice. Pulse a few more times. Serve over pasta or on a sandwich. Freeze leftovers in an ice cube tray for single serving use.


Hummus with Garlic Scapes created by Erica Strait for Swede Lake Farms and Global Garlic

1/3 cup garlic scapes (3 or 4)

1 Tbsp lemon juice

½ tsp sea salt

¼ tsp ground black pepper

1 can garbanzo beans or 1 and ½ cup soaked and cooked garbanzo beans

2-3 Tbsp Tahini

¼ tsp cayenne

1 tsp cumin

¼ cup olive oil

Process scapes, lemon juice, salt and pepper until finely chopped. Add beans, Tahini, cayenne and cumin. Puree. While motor is running, pour in olive oil until smooth. Pulse in 1-3 Tbsp water to desired creamy dip consistency.

Gabriela Lambert is a former lawyer who, after 10 years of practice, decided to stay home with her three kids and pursue a life of leisure. Given the choice between salty and sweet, Gabriela will hit the salty every time. Given the choice between pig and cow, she will clutch her chest and whimper that it’s like asking her to pick her favorite child. On her birthday, she is most likely to choose a trip to the farmers' market with her family, but that’s one of her favorite things to do on any given day. In addition to minding her brood, she spends her time practicing yoga, driving around in her minivan, and blogging at