Pickled Garlic Scapes

scapes-jar

Scapes are the flowering stems that grow from hardneck garlic. Around here, fall planted garlic usually emerges in mid-April.  By early June it’s growing great and as the days get warmer the hardnecks bolt, sending up tender, delicious scapes. The scapes bend and curl as they grow, wrapping around and through each other like frisky boa-constrictors playing Twister. Unfortunately, as they curl, they become much less tender, replacing what was once a fantastically satisfying crunch with a woody chewiness. So it’s important to harvest scapes early, 180-degrees of curl is a good rule. (The scapes in these pictures are a bit too curly and thus too woody. But I suppose tender treats are the price one must pay waiting to make a picture.) It’s this need to harvest, to beat the woodiness,  that makes scapes such a fleeting, garden treasure. They arrive from nowhere. One day there are none and almost literally the next day the whole garlic bed is in scapes. From there, it’s two weeks, maybe even 10 days, maybe even less before they’re past their prime. Asparagus is known as the archetypal fleeting vegetable and it’s season is four or five times longer than garlic scapes’. Even fennel pollen, my absolute favorite garden delight, lasts longer than scapes. Garlic scapes are momentary. Pay too much mind to the rhubarb and you may well miss them.

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