People often ask, What is the easiest plant to grow? Although every plant brings unique challenges and joys, for my garden, the answer to this question is “garlic.”
Of course, the garlic at Heart & Sole Gardens is not like garlic one buys from a supermarket bin or grows as an annual crop. This garlic is special, growing from heirloom parent plants established well over one hundred years ago. While it probably originated with an immigrant pioneer, I call it “Laura’s garlic,” in honor of the woman who grew it on property adjoining our farm and probably used its bounty to create delicious food. When the property was offered for sale, Richard and I purchased it, both for future farm expansion and to save the garlic!
Laura's garlic has large scapes; the smaller ones are another variety
A hardy plant, Laura’s garlic thrives, even in cold winter months, when green leaves push above ground. Scapes emerge from plants in late spring and open to reveal beautiful purple “blossoms,” which are not actually flowers, but a cluster of bulbils, tiny components that, when planted in fall, will produce garlic the following spring. Laura’s garlic is a hardneck variety, which produces scapes, unlike softneck types that do not. Several years ago, we transplanted mature garlic in rows, where it multiplies each year, producing a crop that is as versatile as it is delicious.
Garlic scapes are beautiful in flower arrangements
Peacefully coexisting with most weeds, we clear garlic rows with an occasional whack from a weed eater or lopping shears. Bothered by few pests, Laura’s garlic requires no soil additives and we harvest it every month of the year. Even when bulbs are somewhat pithy, green stalks make excellent roasting racks for meat or other vegetable dishes, imparting their pungent sweet scent and flavor to any dish. Before they open, scapes are delightful to grill, chop and add to vegetable medleys or pickle. Mature scapes add beautiful color to vinegar infusions, along with mild garlic flavor. Recently, at Heirloom Restaurant, Chef Clark Barlowe deep-fried mature scapes, for his take on a blooming onion dish.
Deep-fried garlic scape at Heirloom Restaurant
With abundant garlic scapes this year, I decided to pickle some to use in another recipe I hope to develop this summer. Since they need to retain crunch, I did not can them, but just stuck them in the refrigerator, where they should be perfectly pickled by August.
For easier packing, place jar on its side
If you would like to make refrigerator scape pickles, look for these seasonal treats at local farmer’s markets or plan to grow your own garlic for next year. Rich in antioxidants, garlic has been revered as a medicinal plant for thousands of years. Touted by some as aphrodisiac and recommended by others as vampire repellent, for a useful, easy plant to grow, it’s hard to beat heirloom garlic!
*This brine is an adaptation of Vestal Coffey Anderson’s recipe. I make it by the gallon and store in the refrigerator so it is handy for year-round pickling.
• 2 cups white vinegar
•1-3/4 cups water
• 4 tablespoons Kosher salt
1. Simmer in a large pot until salt dissolves completely.
2. Wash scapes and trim stems, if necessary to fit in jar. For pretty presentation, place the jar on its side, pack scapes until the jar is filled enough to pack from the top. After packing, fill the jar with brine, completely covering all scapes. Store in refrigerator. After a few weeks, scapes will be pickled enough to use and will keep, refrigerated, for months.