For me, one of the great joys of garlic are the 'serpents' that coil from the tops of hardneck garlic (Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon). These are best taken off the plant so that the plant concentrates its resources on growing splendid bulbs. Which is a bonus, as the mild garlic heat and taste of the serpents or 'scapes' is a summer treat.
If you grow your own, these are a bonus crop. You should also find them in good markets and with some veg box schemes.
You can use these in the kitchen wherever you would use garlic. You can, for example, add to bean and vegetable dips, soups, stir fries, risotto, tarts and salads.
Fresh from the plant, they are divine just moistened with some olive oil and barbecued, griddled or grilled for a minute or two. Just season to serve with a little sea salt and perhaps a splash of extra virgin olive oil.
Saute or steam to use as a side vegetable - they're a delight with fish and seafood.
If you'd like to preserve your bounty, here are two really simple ideas that won't take ages.
Garlic Scape Oil or butter
Chop the scapes into short lengths.
To make the oil, add the lengths to a food processor with some lemon juice and a little salt. Whizz up and gradually add olive oil in a thin stream until you have a thick paste. Taste and season with salt and black pepper to taste. Store in the fridge for 3-6 months, keeping covered in oil. Or freeze in batches and take out as needed. This is great to add to pasta, to slather on bread or as a quick way to add a garlic flavour to anything you are cooking.
To make the butter, either process the scapes into a puree or chop them very finely. I like the texture of finely chopped scapes in the butter. Mix the scapes with about twice the weight of softened butter. Use some greaseproof paper or old butter wraps to roll the butter into a thin roll of about 2-4cm diameter. Pop in the fridge to harden or wrap and freeze in batches. Cut discs to melt onto vegetables or grilled and barbecued meats.
Garlic scape pesto
100g garlic scapes
50g nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pine nuts all work well)
50g Parmesan or pecorino cheese or vegetarian alternative in chunks
150ml extra virgin olive oil (or rapeseed)
Salt & pepper to taste
You can vary the quantities of the nuts and cheese to suit your taste, or leave them out. Some chilli flakes added to the mix gives a nice little kick. Or you can add basil, tarragon, thyme or rosemary leaves for a herbal note.
Toast the nuts by heating in a dry pan or in the microwave until they are just golden.
Pop the scapes, nuts and cheese in a blender and blitz until you have a chunky spread. Blitz again and add the oil in a thin stream until you have the consistency you like. You may need to scrape down the sides a few times.
Season with salt & pepper to taste.
Serve with pasta, with grilled or barbecued fish, chicken or vegetables.
Store in the fridge covered with oil or freeze in batches.
Carl Legge lives on the Llyn Peninsula in Wales on a permaculture smallholding and writes a regular blog full of delicious recipes and more. His new book, The Permaculture Kitchen: Love Food, Love People, Love the Planet a book of seasonal, local, home-grown delicious recipes is out for just £11.20, published by Permanent Publications, the book publishing arm of Permaculture magazine. Order now from our Green Shopping site.
More recipes from Carl
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