Garlic scapes – also called garlic shoots – are the long, thin, sturdy stems that grow out of the garlic bulb. Many vendors trim off the elongated flower bud at the tip of the scape, but if they are still intact, look for ones that are tightly closed. If they have the bud on, they resemble flowering chives on steroids.
Garlic scapes taste strongly of garlic but only when they are raw. Once cooked, the flavour becomes sweet and mellow.
Stir-fried beef and garlic scapes
300 grams boneless beef (choose a tender cut, such as tenderloin, oyster blade, bavette, flank or sirloin)
15ml soy sauce
10ml rice wine
5ml sesame oil
½ tsp sugar
¼ tsp fine sea salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp cornstarch
400 grams garlic scapes
2-4 thin slices of ginger, peeled
20 grams oyster sauce
About 10ml cooking oil
Thinly slice the beef against the grain into strips about 3cm long. Put the beef in a bowl, then add the soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, sugar, salt, pepper and cornstarch. Combine thoroughly and set aside for about 10 minutes.
Trim off and discard the tough ends from the garlic scapes (they will be yellow-green and will feel hard, rather than bendable). Cut the remainder of the stems into pieces about 4cm long. Pour the oyster sauce into a small bowl, add about 30ml of hot water and stir to dissolve.
Heat a wok over a high flame and when it’s hot, add the cooking oil. When the oil is very hot, add the garlic scapes and stir-fry until they start to soften slightly (about two minutes). Remove the scapes from the wok. Heat the wok again over a high flame then add the beef (and its marinade) and the ginger. Cook until the beef loses its pink colour, stirring constantly. Add the scapes back to the wok and stir in the oyster sauce/water mixture. Stir-fry until the meat is cooked and the scapes are tender and sweet. Transfer the ingredients to a platter and serve immediately.
Roasted garlic scapes
This is probably the easiest recipe for garlic scapes. If you’re having an outdoor barbecue, put the scapes in a pan (a heavy, un-enamelled cast-iron skillet is ideal for this) and place the pan where the coals are hottest. Otherwise, cook them in the oven. The roasted scapes make a delicious side dish for grilled meat and fish.
500 grams garlic scapes
About 50ml olive oil
The finely grated zest of one lemon
Fine sea salt and rough-flaked salt flakes (such as Maldon)
Trim off and discard the tough ends from the garlic scapes. Cut the remainder of the stems into pieces about 5cm long. Put the scapes into a heavy, un-enamelled pan, drizzle with the oil and mix so the scapes are lightly coated; add more oil, if needed. Sprinkle with fine sea salt.
If cooking them on the barbecue, place the pan about 2cm above the very hot coals. Shake the pan frequently and cook until the scapes are slightly charred and shrivelled.
If cooking them indoors, preheat the oven to 250 degrees Celsius. Place the pan in the oven and cook, stirring occasionally, until the scapes are slightly charred and shrivelled.
Whatever the cooking method, grate the lemon directly over the cooked scapes and stir. Cool the scapes to room temperature, then sprinkle with rough-flaked sea salt just before serving.
Garlic scape pesto
This is another super-easy recipe. I like to make a fairly large batch of garlic scape pesto, put it in jars that hold about 150 grams each, then freeze it. You can make a quick, easy meal by mixing the pesto with hot al dente pasta (with a little of the pasta cooking water), adding a dollop to risotto, stirring a scoop of it into a panful of hot roasted vegetables, or sautéing shrimp and adding some of the pesto to the pan when the seafood is almost done.
500 grams garlic scapes
120 grams pine nuts, walnuts or halved macadamia nuts
About 250ml extra-virgin olive oil (choose a mild-tasting one)
75 grams parmesan cheese, grated on a fine-toothed, rasp-type grater such as a Microplane
75 grams pecorino cheese, grated as above
Fine sea salt, as needed
Use a sharp knife to finely chop the garlic scapes – they should be no thicker than 3mm (this makes processing the scapes much faster, and the result is more even). Put the nuts in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Add the scapes and process to a rough purée. You will need to scrape down the bowl frequently.
Scrape the purée into a bowl. Stirring constantly, drizzle in the extra-virgin olive oil, then mix in the cheeses and some salt to taste. The mixture should be a rich and oily loose paste; if needed, add more olive oil.
Pack the mixture tightly into jars. Smooth the surface, then add more olive oil to the jar so the pesto is covered by about 3mm. Refrigerate for up to a week, or freeze for longer storage.