By now, there isn’t much I haven’t seen… I recognize sprouting okra plants by their leaves, broccoli by its stalk and fennel by its fronds. I can distinguish budding kohlrabi from kale just by the shade of green in the leaves. And now I can say I recognize the garlic too!
I’m growing garlic for the first time this year… and even though I’ve seen fresh bulbs and scapes at the market, I had never before seen how it all comes together in the garden. I planted a row of bulbs right next to a row of leeks, the plume of the leaves distinguish the two.
The real tell-tale sign of garlic is the scape – the curly-q sprout that shoots out from the center. The sprout is thicker/denser than the other leaves, round instead of flat with a pointy tip. Garlic growers snip off this sprout to focus the plant’s energy on the growing bulb. And kitchen gardeners take advantage of this early shot of garlic flavor.
It should be noted that there are two types of garlic – hard neck and soft neck. The soft neck variety doesn’t produce the scape, but has longer storage potential. The hard-neck shoots the scape but only stores for 6 months. This year, I’m (trying) growing both.
A few weeks ago,I dug up one stalk to see if and how the bulb was developing. It just looked like a swollen scallion. And the taste was rather mild.
Now, I have the scape. The flavor is all garlic – without the lingering effect which prevents intimate conversation. You can use it in a recipe as you would scallions – cooked briefly or added at the end as a raw garnish.
The other night, I was out of garlic, so I chopped up a scape to use in its stead. I loved the added texture that is missing from chopped garlic. Though, you can’t see it on the fish (that’s a scallion garnish), I could definitely taste it.
From the garden: scapes, scallions and tomatoes (canned last summer)
Seared Hake with Tomato Coconut Sauce4 – 6 oz. Hake Filets
1 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped
1 tablespoon flour
2 tbs. plain oil
1 – 2 garlic scapes, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 can tomatoes (smoked if possible)
½ can coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Season hake with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with oregano, and squeeze the juice of ½ the lime on top.
2. Dust hake with flour. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add oil. Gently place hake in pan, and let cook for 5 minutes, undisturbed until a golden crust develops. Flip hake over to cook on the second side.
3. To the hake pan, add the scapes and jalapeno. Make sure they hit the bottom of the pan so they can brown a little. Add the coconut milk and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and continue cooking for just a minute or until the fish is cooked through.
4. Squeeze remaining lime juice on top just before serving.