When you grow garlic, there is always the question of what to do with the scapes (the curly-Q flower stalks on hardneck garlic varieties). They need to be removed to concentrate the plant's energy on forming the underground bulb. Problem is, they all need to be removed at the roughly the same time, and if you grow more than a few heads of garlic (we have 250) that's a whole lot of scapes to make sense of in a very short period.
Friends with a small farm that specializes in garlic admit to tossing bushels of them on the compost heap, no matter how valiantly they try to find new ways of eating them. I've tried most of the recommended treatments – adding them to stir-fries and salads, making scape soup, pickling them. And I still end up giving them away by the sackful.
One of my favorite ways to cook asparagus is to toss it with some oil and S&P and grill it. A few years ago, it occurred to me to try the same with garlic scapes. I wasn't disappointed. Grilling mellows their otherwise sharp bite, so they have a soft sweet flavor, close to roasted garlic.
My 50 heads of German Extra Hardy – an early variety – needed scaping this week, so on Friday I clipped them all and grilled the whole pile for dinner. It's easy as hell – just cut off and discard the bulbous flower head then toss the whole scapes with oil (it takes getting in with your hands to really coat all the scapes; a light film of oil is best) and some salt and pepper. I used hazelnut oil this time.
Get your grill good and hot and throw the whole pile of scapes on at once, then spread them around with your tongs (if you don't have tongs, get yourself a pair of these – the best). Keep flipping and moving them around until they're soft (you'll notice they're limp when you pick them up) and caramely brown, even black in spots. Remove them from the grill, and toss them with a little more salt if you like. I served them with grilled giant scallops that had been slicked with hazelnut oil and dusted with fennel pollen.
My garlic growing friends suggested making a sort of pesto, by puréeing the scapes with some olive oil. I have a nice fillet of wild sockeye to grill for dinner tonight, and I'm thinking of treating it to a little scape pesto.