The Great Scape (Garlic, That Is….)

Cooking locally is a challenge to some; to me, it is just good, honest fun.

When I combine cooking locally with blogging, everything just gets that much more fun, because I get ideas from other bloggers and from commenters on my blog on recipes to use my newly-found farmers market treasures.

Take garlic scapes, for example.

Shirley, from Singapore, commented that she likes to cook them with pork and pressed tofu.

That sounded right fine and tasty to me, so last night, I had some pork I could thaw out and some pressed tofu in the fridge, so lo and behold, guess what we had for dinner?

Pork and Pressed Tofu with Garlic Scapes.

Cooking it was wonderfully fun, but eating it was even better, because I learned a few more things about garlic scapes.

First of all, the very young, new scapes, like I had last week, are very mild and somewhat sweet, with a very “green” flavor in addition to the gentle garlic taste.

I discovered last night, however, that the older scapes, like I had this week, are a bit tougher and more fiberous (so much so that I could have blanched them a little before stir-frying them) and in addition, the green flavor is overpowered by the strong tang of garlic. In fact, the garlic flavor was so strong in some of them, that they were postively HOT! It was a very good thing that I went easier on the chile peppers than I at first intended to, as many of the scapes themselves were full of enough fire and fury for most palates!

I enjoyed them, however, and they tasted great with the lightly five-spice flavored pressed tofu and the pork.

The sauce was simple, and I was happy of that; I just used some premium Chinese soy sauce, a scant teaspoon of raw sugar and a goodly splash or two of Shao hsing wine. Any more flavors would have competed with the stronger flavor of the garlic scapes and would have muddied the dish. I nearlly added fermented black beans, but left them out at the last minute, and rightly so.

I finished it off with a tiny drizzle of toasted sesame oil, and with the aromatics of some very fresh local scallions, some garlic, ginger and chiles, the entire dish came together as an enticement that really called for us to eat plenty of rice to soak up the strong, clean flavors.

Next time I make this, however, I will taste a garlic scape on its own; while the older one still have much of the texture of green beans or Chinese long beans (hrm–I wonder if they can be dry fried?), they are a bit tougher than I would necessarily like. Blanching would not only soften them up a bit, but would also tone down the intense garlic heat of them as well, and would probably make for a more balanced dish overall.

So, if you have garlic scapes to use up, taste them first, and then decide whether or not you want to blanch them before you try them in any of the recipes I have given here for them! After you have made that decision–get to cooking them–they are a valuable addition to the flavors of late spring and early summer.

I really cannot imagine not having these odd and lovely vegetables again next year, when they are in season again.

Shirley’s Pork, Pressed Tofu and Garlic Scape Stir-Fry


1/2 pound boneless lean pork loin, sliced thinly
3 teaspoons of premium soy sauce (I use Kimlan Premium Aged)
4 teaspoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
3 large scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced on the bias
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2″ cube ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 serrano or similar red chile, thinly sliced on the bias
1 teaspoon raw sugar
3 fresh or dried (and rehydrated) shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, thinly sliced
8 ounces pressed spiced tofu, thinly sliced on the bias
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3-4 tablespoons Shao hsing wine
1 1/2 cups trimmed garlic scapes cut into 2″ long pieces
1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil


Mix together pork, soy sauce and cornstarch and allow to marinate 20 minutes to one hour.

Heat wok until it is smoking hot, then add peanut or canola oil. Allow to heat until oil shimmers.

Add sliced scallions, garlic, ginger and chile, and stir fry until very fragrant–about one minute.

Add meat, carefully layering it into a single layer on the bottom of the wok. Allow to remain undisturbed for about a minute, so that it may brown on the bottom. While this is going on, sprinkle sugar evenly over the top side of the meat.

When the pork smells browned, begin stir-frying. Add mushrooms and tofu, and stir fry until the pork is nearly done–3/4 of the pink color should be gone.

Deglaze the brown marinade that is stuck to the wok with the wine and soy sauce, scraping up all of the browned bits. Add the garlic scapes and stir fry until all of the meat is done, and the garlic scapes turn a deep, rich green, and the sauce is thick, glossy and clings to every bit of the food.

Take off the heat and drizzle with the sesame oil.

Scrape from wok into heated serving dish and serve immediately with steamed rice.


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  1. I like your caution for next time. Looks delicious!

    Comment by tanna — June 8, 2006 #

  2. I only discovered garlic scapes a few summers ago, and I’m not entirely sure they were even showing up at the farmer’s markets around here before then.

    I was just reading a thread on eGullet where farmers were discussing discovering in recent years that they could sell these things they used to cut off and throw away so that the garlic bulbs would grow larger. Fascinating.

    If you’re looking for more garlic scape recipes, well, a few nights ago I made some garlic scape tartlets.

    Comment by Danielle — June 8, 2006 #

  3. So… I did make it to the Farmer’s Markets this week(they -mainly- open in early June in Chicago).

    I got my baby scapes, spring onions, and some young garlic. The scapes are going on a pizza tonight, but the young garlic and onions went as a side for a morel quiche I made the other day.

    I’m already planning this weekend’s trip.

    Comment by Christopher Gordon — June 8, 2006 #

  4. Possibly a silly question, but: do you trim the scapes at all? If so, which end? (that is, the skinny tiny growing tip past the flower head, or the stem that was nearest the bulb) Maybe chop them in half for cooking? The ones I have are so long, it would be hard to eat in one bite…

    Comment by Tricia — June 8, 2006 #

  5. Glad to be of service, Tanna.

    Danielle–thanks for the recipe. Yeah–I think that some farmer might have read an Asian cookbook or had an Asian friend who said, “Hey, don’t throw those in the compost heap–they taste great!”

    Farmers then had to educate consumers on them–not everyone is as willing as I am to buy something unfamiliar like that. But, boy–I am glad I did, and I hope more folks start buying them–they are great!

    Woohoo, Christopher! Good for you–and the recipes sound fabulous! Let me know how you like the scapes.

    Tricia–you trim the “whisker” off the blossom end–that is the long, whiplike tail. It is too fiberous to eat. Then, cut them into bite sized pieces. I cut them about the way you would green beans or asparagus for eating.

    Comment by Barbara — June 8, 2006 #

  6. I also slice the curvilinear stems on the bias. The scapes worked great on a white pizza. However, thanks for the(shoulda been obvious tip!) to chew a couple before prep. In past years I’ve sautee’d scapes with ridiculously sinewy(and fiery) results.

    Comment by Christopher Gordon — June 8, 2006 #

  7. Yeah, I tend to slice on the bias, too, but that is my habit now, from Asian food prep.

    A good blanch would take care of the sinew and fire, so fear not! If you catch a batch of them that are tougher and older, into the boiling water they go for a wee bath, and all will be well.

    Comment by Barbara — June 8, 2006 #

  8. What honour Barbara! Thank you, and I must say that I would not have whipped up such a great dish with the scapes as you have. Those firm tofu looks wonderful and I bet they tasted swell too. When I first started cooking the scapes, I added minced garlic to the dish, duh! It never crossed my mind to use fermented black beans. Do you think they will make the dish too heavy tasting? I love the younger scapes with a tinge of sweetness to them. Thanks!

    Comment by Shirley — June 12, 2006 #

  9. Found this while looking for inspiration to go with my garlic scapes. I’ve got fresh snow peas and prawns on hand too, so I think this will have to be adapted for dinner. I’ll be sure to take a taste first too!

    Comment by kitchenmage — July 6, 2006 #

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