Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Garlic Scapes

If you saw my earlier posts at the end of last year when I first started blogging, you probably know that we planted garlic this year.........or rather, we planted garlic last year.  Garlic needs a long growing season, longer than we have here.  So you plant it in the fall.  Mid-October is optimal time to plant garlic, but I think we got it planted around the first week in November (we always run behind!).  You need to get it in the ground before it freezes, and that can vary from year to year.  The garlic starts to grow right after you plant it and then will overwinter and continue growing in the spring and will be ready to harvest around July. 
We planted 5 varieties of garlic, and hopefully I will be able to find my diagram of what was planted where so we can decide what varieties we liked.  We planted both hardneck and softneck varieties.  Hardnecks have a hard stem coming out of the top and will usually produce larger cloves than softneck varieties.
During the growing season, garlic will produce a bloom.  This bloom comes from a hard stem that comes up in the middle of the garlic tops and they are called scapes.  You really don't want garlic to bloom.  When any plant blooms, it focuses its energy into the bloom and producing seeds.  In garlic, you want the plant to focus its energy into producing larger cloves.  So you need to cut off the scapes.
Garlic scapes can be tasty treasures from the garden and this year is my first experience with them.  I didn't get them harvested as early as I should have (I told you we always run late getting things done!), but I did get them harvested last week.  These scapes can be sauted, chopped and added to dishes, or pickled.
I got my information on pickled garlic scapes from Victoria Wesseler.  Victoria is an Indiana based food writer from Labanon, IN.  I met Victoria last year when she and her husband Robert did a presentation on pickles for the Herb Society of Indiana's Spring Herb Symposium.  Dill was the herb of the year for 2010, and they did a wonderful job of explaining how to make delicious pickles.  Victoria likes to eat as local as possible and she and her husband grow and preserve about half of all of the food they need each year on their "Dirtpatch" farm.  You can find Victoria's information on pickled garlic scapes at http://www.goinglocal-info.com/my_weblog/2011/06/pickled-garlic-scapes.html.
I didn't have nearly as many scapes as Victoria had, so I had to improvise.  I collected and washed my scapes.  I know that they say to discard the blooms, but I didn't have very many and I wanted to experiment -- so I used as much of the scapes as I thought could be usuable.
I cut the scapes and packed them into 2 pint jars.  Then I used 2 cups distilled vinegar, 2 cups water and guessed at the salt amount.  I put the vinegar mixture in a stainless steel pan to heat.  I didn't have any whole cayennes, so I used about 1/2 tsp. of pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp. dill seeds and 2 bay leaves in the bottom of each jar.  Once the vinegar mixture was hot, I poured it over the scapes, filling the jars.  I wiped the rims of the jars clean and put on the lids.  I did not process them in a hot water bath.  I am just keeping them in the refrigerator since I only had 2 jars.  I will let you know in 2 weeks how we like them!
My precious 2 jars of pickled garlic scapes.
I hope to find many ways to use these scapes and share those ideas with you soon.  Have you ever had garlic scapes?  Let me know how you like them!

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