While asparagus is clearly the vegetable winner when it comes to Spring harbingers, garlic scapes, those intriguing shoots that form on hardneck varieties, are not far behind. Prized by professional chefs and adventurous home cooks, scapes are ideally harvested before they open to reveal beautiful pink clusters that look like blossoms, but are actually bulbils, the basis for new garlic plants. Although delicious, garlic scapes, like most fresh foods, enjoy a brief season, but unlike asparagus, garlic has a “cousin” that produces scapes in late Summer/early Fall and offers harvesters another chance to gather fresh garlicky flavor.
Hardneck Garlic Produces Large Scapes
Garlic chives grow from a fibrous, inedible bulb and produce flat leaves look more like grass than the round leaves of onion chives. Allium tuberosum is a popular choice for herb beds or flower gardens and since garlic chives reseed freely, it is easy to grow a large crop within a few short years. Tolerant of heat and cool weather, garlic chives require little maintenance and are not picky about soil conditions, making them a desirable plant for most home gardeners. Excellent border or container plants, garlic chives reach about 15 inches in height at maturity and clusters of white blossoms open to attract a multitude of pollinators.
Garlic Chive Blossoms Attract Numerous Pollinators
Allow flower heads to dry for intriguing additions to fall floral arrangements, but shake small black seeds free before using the dried heads. Left intact, these seeds will drop and scatter across floors, furniture and counters.
Garlic Chive Seedhead
Mentioned in Chinese texts over four thousand years ago, garlic chives are prized by many gardeners who grow this hardy plant as a beneficial garden companion. Touted as a deterrent for Japanese beetles, whiteflies and black spot on roses, garlic chives also are traditional medicinal herbs used for liver, kidney and digestive problems or to boost the immune system. A star in many Asian dumpling dishes and soups, garlic chives are as tasty as they are useful.
Both flowers and leaves are delicious in compound butter, herbed vinegar, fresh salads, stir-fries, roasted tomato sauce and mashed potatoes, but it is the scape-like bud that offers a special culinary treat. Garnish with these small buds for edible visual interest or place them across roasted chicken, hot from the oven, and let them wilt while the bird rests, draping crispy skin in perfume and flavor. Mince several garlic chive scapes and top baked potatoes or mashed potatoes or add them to late season pickles. Use both leaves and scapes to create a pesto. After tasting garlic chive scapes for the first time, you may wonder how you ever cooked without them!
Garlic Chive Scapes
Fortunately, potato harvest, garlic scape season and a bit of cooler weather combined in my geographical area this year and we enjoyed Potato and Garlic Chive Scape Soup for a taste that heralds Fall as much as hardneck garlic scapes announce Spring’s arrival. If you miss garlic chive scape season this year, make plans to grow your own next year. For beauty and versatility, this plant is a winner.
Garlic Chive Scapes Add Delicious Flavor to Soup
• 2 thick slices bacon
• 1 tablespoon garlic chive scape, minced
• 1 small garlic clove, minced
• 1 cup sweet onion, chopped
• ½ cup Sauvignon Blanc wine
• 3 cups peeled potatoes, diced
• 1 small baked potato, mashed
• 4 cups hot stock (Chicken or Vegetable)
• ¼ cup heavy cream
• Fresh garlic chive scapes for garnish
1. Cook bacon in Dutch oven over low heat until fat is rendered and bacon is crispy
2. Place bacon on paper towels to drain and add minced garlic chive scape, garlic and onion to hot bacon fat. Cook over medium heat until vegetables are translucent, about 4-6 minutes. Add wine and continue to cook until almost all liquid is reduced. Add potatoes and stir in hot stock.
3. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
4. Bring soup to boil, then simmer for about ten minutes.
5. Stir baked, mashed potato in soup. Simmer for about ten minutes.
6. Remove from heat, stir cream into hot soup.
7. Serve with crumbled bacon and fresh garlic chive scapes.