Garlic Scape “Dilly Beans”

Garlic scapes are the immature flower stalks of a garlic plant. In June, these spiraling shoots grow up from the middle of the plant; if left alone, each stalk would form a flower. However, by removing the scapes, you force the plant to send more energy into the root garlic bulb, increasing your harvest later in the season. Once the scape is taller than the surrounding leaves, cut it off at its base, as far down as you can without affecting any leaves.

Because we see them at farmers’ markets, most of us know garlic scapes shouldn’t be relegated to the compost pile. But what most of us don’t know is how to use them in the kitchen.

“We like them because they have a really neat shape and look great on our plates,” says Executive Chef Jim McCarthy. “My favorite way to prepare them is on the grill with just a little oil, salt, and pepper. Their flavor isn’t quite as aggressive as garlic, but it’s definitely pungent. As for their texture, I’d say they are akin to something like a long bean or maybe even a thin asparagus.”

To enjoy the more subdued, green garlic taste further into the season, try a quick pickling. Chef de cuisine Wes Nicoll explains the inspiration: when cut into segments, scapes resemble green beans, which are often preserved as dilly beans. But while pickled scapes might look familiar, their subtle garlic flavor will be a welcome surprise.

Before pickling, it’s best to cut off the thinner, stringier tips of the scapes, as those pieces make for a stringy final product. However, the thicker ends will soften in the brine and don’t need to be discarded (although that’s a good trick when grilling).

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. garlic scapes, stringy top portions removed
  • 1 shallot, cut in quarters
  • ½ t Aleppo pepper*
  • ½ t mustard seed
  • 4 sprigs dill, large stems removed
  • 2 C 5% apple cider vinegar**
  • 2 C water
  • ¼ C salt

* This pepper imparts sweeter taste, but red chili flakes are a convenient substitute
** 5% vinegar has more of the sweet apple taste, since they’re refrigerator pickles, and not heat-processed or canned, the lower vinegar solution is fine.

Directions

  1. Put all ingredients except the garlic scapes into a saucepan and bring to a bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, pack the garlic scapes into a plastic or glass quart container.
  3. Pour the boiling brine over the scapes and allow to cool to room temperature.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for 1 - 2 days before eating. Eat the pickles within one month.

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