This is my first post dedicated to eating locally, specifically what I use from my CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) pickups and visits to local farmer’s markets and farm stands. This is my 5th year participating in a CSA. When I started, I was a new stay-at-home mom, trying to involve myself in my community. My first year of pickups involved a squirmy infant in a Baby Bjorn as I tried to fill my bags with my week’s share. Now, I have two boys to wrangle, who are sometimes helpful, while I quickly gather my share!
When I was a kid, my family grew our own garden of vegetables every summer. So, I already knew what “fresh” tastes like. Nothing compares to a fresh-picked tomato – nothing. The taste of a fresh tomato versus one from the grocery store is night and day. Why is this? Think about what happens to that grocery store tomato. It is probably picked somewhere far, far away and probably before it’s ripe. Then, it gets on a truck and drives all the way to your local grocery store, where it’s loaded onto shelves and hangs out until somebody buys it. How long does this all take? By the time it gets to your table, the nutrients inside have started breaking down, effecting taste and nutrition. Getting your hands on a freshly picked tomato enlightens your taste buds and offers your body its full nutrition potential.
I didn’t know what to expect from my CSA initially, but my weekly share of fruits and vegetables were beyond what I could imagined. Everything was delicious, fresh, amazing and I was exposed to a variety of knew vegetables. The problem was, how to use everything each week. I admit, the first year was tough and I threw away and gave away more than I should. However, each year, I got better and better at using each weeks share. Now, that my family is focused on eating whole, unprocessed foods, it’s even easier. Each week we hit the farm (a lesson on its own about food for my kids), see what we get to take home and imagine the possibilities. I can honestly say, participating in a CSA has been one of the best experiences of my life.
In addition to my CSA, I visit my local farmer’s markets and farm stands to fill the gaps. You will find that each has something amazing and unique to offer.
This year I am participating in a CSA at Mehaffey Farm. This was our first week and, so far, it is fantastic. We got radishes, carrots, Sugar Ann peas, strawberries, spinach, mesclun greens, and garlic scapes. On the way home, my little guy had the strawberries and my older son had the peas, and they were both chomping away. This post is about garlic scapes, both because I love them, and also because they were one of the first items from my early experiences with my CSA that was completely foreign to me. I hope it gets scapes on your dinner table.
Garlic scapes are amazing. Every June, I look forward to these funky tendrils showing up in my CSA pickup and at my local farmer’s markets. I never even knew what they were or that they existed prior to starting a CSA. However, now that I am familiar with them, they are a welcome late spring treat. I wish I could have them all year round, but unfortunately, they only make their appearance for a few weeks at the beginning of the season, and then they are gone, leaving me longing for their return…
Ok, so what are these curly green stalky things? Garlic scapes are the stems of unopened flower buds from certain varieties of garlic. Farmers trim the scapes before the flower blooms in order to force the plant to focus its attention on the garlic bulb. It’s a win-win, scapes now and better garlic later! They have a very mild garlicky, oniony flavor that mellows out when it’s cooked, much like garlic or onion would. I also love them because, once cooked, they become chewy little morsels of deliciousness. They are great for kids because they are mild and kids typically have a hard time with a more intense garlic flavor. I have actually witnessed my 2 year old fishing out the scape pieces from his pasta to eat first.
A quick Google search will provide you with a variety of uses for scapes. I like to use them on the fly, as I would onion or garlic (which I use in pretty much everything). I leave the scapes in a cup of water on the kitchen counter, like fresh cut flowers and grab a few at a time to use as needed. I use them in everything from stir-fries, rice/pasta dishes, soup, and sauces. I like to chop them into small ¼ inch pieces and cook as I would onion or garlic.
Yesterday, I added them to ground beef to make Mexican rice bowls (inspired by Chipotle’s version). I simply chopped some shallot, red bell pepper and scapes, sautéed them in avocado oil until they started to turn translucent, and added ground beef and spices. Avocado oil is great because it can handle the high heat and it has a neutral flavor.
Next time you see garlic scapes in your CSA haul or at the Farmer’s market, grab them before they are gone. They are a wonderful addition to any savory meal.