This is the first year in almost a decade that we've really played with garlic scapes. Actually, this is the first year in almost a decade that we've been around New York for the summer season and therefore able to take advantage of the bounty of produce available at the Union Square farmer's market. Garlic scapes are just one of many newly discovered and quickly adored ingredients that we've become acquainted with over the last couple of months. The garlic scape is actually the flowering shoot of the garlic plant. It is also known as the garlic whistle and pigtails. They are harvested while still young and tender so that the plants energy will be concentrated in it's roots, which in turn creates the garlic bulbs that are a staple in kitchens throughout the world. If you would like to utilize them in their raw state, look for smaller stems that have not yet begun to curl. If the only ones available are already twisted around themselves, not to worry, a bit of applied heat will tame their sharp, pungent flavor. Simply trim off the woody ends and the tips of the flowers, which burn easily, and give them a rinse. Now you're ready to start cooking.
The verdant tangles of garlic scapes may be juiced, creamed, sauteed, fried, pickled, pureed, and dried. Like regular bulb garlic, they require gentle cooking and will become unpalatable if scorched. They have a greener and grassier flavor than cloves of garlic and their brief window in markets forces cooks to explore all kinds of possibilities during their limited period of availability. They are happily substituted in any recipe calling for garlic with only minor modifications. On the other hand, they are absolutely delicious simply sauteed in some duck or bacon fat and served alongside creamy scrambled eggs with a dollop of creme fraiche.