Famous chef and local food advocate, Dan Barber, says in his book The Third Plate, that recipes and fine cuisine originated from people taking whatever nature was providing during a given season and doing what they needed to make it taste good. Resourcefulness is a necessary quality in many aspects of life, but especially to cooks and farmers.
Garlic scapes are a good example of this.
The garlic we get from supermarkets is mostly grown in the warmer regions of California or China. The varieties that grow well there are “softneck” varieties, meaning they don’t put up a hard flower stalk out of the center of the head of garlic (for this reason they can also be made into garlic braids).
In colder regions of northern Europe and North America farmers grow the more cold hardy “hardneck” varieties of garlic. These varieties do put up a flower stalk, called a scape, in late spring. So resourceful cooks in these regions have found ways to spice up their cuisine using these garlic scapes.
Likewise, as the local farming movement has taken off, and CSA participation and farmers markets are increasing, resourceful farmers have been looking for more and more novel crops they can provide customers who want to be buying and eating more local foods; especially early in the growing season.
The result has been once obscure crops like these garlic scapes (kale and beets fall into this category too) have now become main stream. Now, you can even find them at some supermarkets during the height of their season.
Garlic scapes are indeed delicious too, especially when paired with the cooking greens that are also abundant this time of year. Chopping them up fine, sauteing them in some olive oil, and mixing in the mustard greens, chard, or spinach as they cook, is a great way to make both taste more delicious. Another favorite recipe is one of our featured recipes this week (it also can be found on our seasonal recipe page), garlic scape pesto, where the scapes function as both the garlic and the green in the pesto.
In fact, when I first participated in a CSA program , was when I was first introduced to garlic scapes. Today, over 10 years later, making and enjoying garlic scape pesto has become a springtime family tradition!
Throughout our CSA season, but especially this time of year, the farmers at 5 Loaves Farm are providing veggies to our members that are probably new to them, and that will require resourcefulness when looking to cook them up. However, the rewards are great with all the exciting new tastes, and who knows, maybe even a new family heirloom recipe just waiting to be created!