When I bring home a harvest like this (and compared to the gardens of people who actually know what they’re doing, this is pretty puny), I get a little giddy. A sack full of...
Of all the vegetables I grew in our garden over the past two years, garlic was probably my favorite. It was by no means the flashiest, nor was it the most interesting, but in many ways it turned out to be an extraordinarily good move on our part.
It was the easiest to plant and maintain. I received my garlic cloves in the fall, pushed them down into the soil, and waited. I did not water them or weed the beds, but they grew steadily. It was the highest yielding crop I had. I lost one bulb to rot, but the rest flourished. Insects didn't seem to be interested in the plants (whereas they loved everything else I planted). And then, possibly my favorite part of growing garlic--the scapes.
Of course, one doesn't grow garlic for the scapes. Or maybe some do. But nonetheless, hardneck garlic is very much a twofer. You have to wait until summer for your fully formed garlic bulbs, but you get a sneak preview in spring when the scapes emerge, coiling in a loose and undisciplined spiral.
Garlic scapes are the tender stalks that bear the garlic flower. At first, the flower is, like all flowers, enclosed in a sheath that, if allowed to remain on the plant, will open up and blossom. All alliums have lovely flowers, but garlic should not be allowed to flower as it saps much-needed energy from the bulb and will result in smaller bulbs and a lower yield.
Garlic scapes taste very much like green garlic. They're a little funky and highly delicious. Because they are very tender, you can cook them as you would cook aparagus--sauté them, roast them, steam them, grill them, etc.--but you can also eat them raw. I like to chop them like scallions and add them to chicken, tuna, or pasta salads. They can be used in frittatas or quiches, casseroles, or stir-frys. You can also pickle them for a real treat.
You will find garlic scapes at local markets from late spring through early summer. Look for firm, bright green scapes with no yellowing. You can use the whole scape, including the bulging part where the flower has begun to form.