Like most Ferry Plaza Farmers Market regulars, I get excited to see cherries, blueberries, and early peach varieties popping up at stands in May. And while I have been known to wax poetic about the perfect apricot, it’s the brief appearance of garlic scapes in late spring that really gets me weak in the knees.
Both green garlic (which is sold immature like green onions or scallions) and garlic scapes (the immature flower stalks) are harvested to encourage the maturation of garlic bulbs underground. While green garlic appears at the market from January through May, scapes don’t usually make their debut until the start of May, and then are only available for a few short weeks. Unlike green garlic, the stalks of garlic scapes are thicker and topped with a small pointy pod—which also makes a nice addition to a bouquet or centerpiece. Their flavor differences are similar—both have a true garlic flavor without the heat or spiciness of the mature bulb garlic—but I find scapes to be more versatile and herbaceous. They can even be eaten raw.
Scapes are excellent in pesto, lightly sautéed and tossed over new potatoes, or added to scrambled eggs or soups. I particularly like them puréed with fava beans, a little lemon and olive oil, or mixed into a fresh goat cheese like the Queso Fresco from Bodega and Yerba Santa Goat Cheese. Grilling scapes mellows their flavor and enhances their sweetness. The grilled stalks can be served alongside meat or fish—as you would asparagus—and are particularly good with wild salmon, which is now available at the Saturday market from Shogun Fish Co. and H & H Fresh Fish Co.
This month at the market, we have both regular, hard-necked garlic scapes and elephant garlic scapes. The elephant variety has a much larger pod, which can be slightly more fibrous. I highly recommend that if you decide to use the pod tips of the elephant variety that you shave them on a mandolin. The shaved bits make a pretty topping for salads or can be sprinkled on anything like chives.
Find garlic scapes this month only at Thomas Farm, Marin Roots Farm, and Knoll Farms on Saturdays. Also look for them from our newest addition to the Thursday market—Lonely Mountain Farm—who will have both elephant scapes and Korean red hot garlic scapes for the next three weeks.