What are garlic scapes?
Garlic scapes never fail to catch my eye at the farmers’ market. Their coiled, pigtail-like shape makes them one of the most unusual, gorgeous-looking vegetables.
But what are they, exactly? Scapes (also known as garlic shoots, garlic stems and garlic stalks) are the leafless, flowering stems of the garlic plant. They are usually cut off before the bud fully develops in order to encourage the garlic plant to put all of its energy into growing its precious bulb. This practice, of course, lets us enjoy the garlic plant in more ways than one – the precursor to the feast, so to speak.
But don’t let its funky shape intimidate you. That wiggly-looking veggie has a delightful, mild garlic flavor. The only recommendation I have is to choose young, tender stems, as they get a little tough and fibrous when mature.
How to cook garlic scapes
There are many ways to cook garlic scapes. I love to braise them with other members of the Allium family and toss them with linguini — but they’re also delicious puréed in pesto, stir-fried, grilled (with other veggies or on their own) or, as in today’s recipe, simply sautéed.
A couple of weeks ago, local hothouse cherry tomatoes made their first appearance at our farmers’ market. Flash-sautéed with garlic scapes and chives, they make the most delicious and versatile side dish – not to mention they’re a cinch to prepare.
I only wish garlic scape season would last just a bit longer!
Flash-sautéed cherry tomatoes with garlic scapes
serves 4 to 6
active time: 15 min
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 8 young garlic scapes – cut on the diagonal in 1/8″ slices (1 cup) (see Cook’s note)
- 1/2 small bunch fresh chives – cut in 1/4″ pieces using kitchen scissors (1/4 cup)
- 1 1/2 lbs (680 g) assorted cherry tomatoes (4 cups) – halved
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and garlic scapes and sauté for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes, until garlic scapes are tender and just begin to turn dark green, stirring frequently. Add the chives, tomatoes, salt and pepper and sauté for 30 seconds shaking the pan vigorously so they warm up evenly (The tomatoes should not cook or the skins will get tough. They should be barely warmed). Remove from heat, transfer to a serving platter and serve immediately, as a side vegetable.
- Cook’s note: If garlic scapes are not available, substitute with 2 garlic cloves, skinned and finely chopped. Sauté the garlic for 30 seconds and proceed with the recipe.