Growing Garlic Continued

Scapes – a delightful bonus

Once you have harvested your scapes, they can be used in a number of ways. They are a delightful bonus – an early taste of your garlic crop, a way to enjoy fresh garlic earlier in the season.

Scapes, chopped into short lengths make a wonderful addition to stir-fries and they can be added to soups, stews or any other dish where you would use some fresh garlic. Substitute scapes in salad dressings, especially those that you make with a blender or a hand-held blender (such as Caesar dressing). Use them in dishes where you would use green onions. They can also be steamed like asparagus and served with butter or a light dressing.

One caution is to taste your fresh scapes before you use them as they vary greatly in taste and heat! The scapes carry the same flavour and heat as the mature bulbs, only to a slightly lesser degree.

Garlic scape pesto is a real treat. Here is a basic recipe:

1 pound scapes, chopped into two inch pieces

1 ¼ cup parmesan cheese

1 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

You can vary the recipe by adding pine nuts, sunflower seeds, unsalted pistachios or other nuts or seeds as you like.

Other variations on the basic recipe would be to use sesame oil for up to ¼ of the olive oil to give a smoky sesame flavour. You can also experiment with other oils, or use a mild flavoured vinegar in place of ½ of the lemon juice.

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until you have a pesto with the texture that you desire.

Put your pesto in a jar and keep it in the fridge if you are going to use it in a short while. Otherwise, divide it into portions and freeze it. It freezes well and is just like fresh when thawed.

Garlic scape pickles – another treat

Garlic scapes to fill a 500 ml. jar

Optional: 1 dried chili

1 cup cider vinegar

1 cup water

4 teaspoons fine sea salt

4 teaspoons sugar

Trim the garlic scapes, curl them up, and place them in a pint jar with a tight-fitting lid, stacking them on top of each other. Fill in the center space with more tightly curled scapes; or you can also cut the scapes into bite-size pieces and then just pile them in. Put the dried chili in the jar, at the bottom or in the middle.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar to a simmer. Cook, swirling the pan if necessary until the salt and sugar are fully dissolved.

Pour the warm vinegar mixture over the garlic scapes in the jars to cover them (you may not need all of the vinegar mixture), leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace at the top (between the top of the liquid and where the lid will be). Screw the lid on the jar. Let it sit until cool, then store it in the refrigerator for at least 4 weeks and up to 6 months to let the flavors blend and the garlic scapes to “pickle.” The pickles will get more tender over time, but their flavor will stay garlicky strong.

If you have too many scapes to deal with all at once, clean them, chop them and put them in the freezer. They can then be used in stir-fries, soups, stews and dressings.

If you don’t want to freeze them then share them with friends and get them hooked on garlic scapes – they can be addictive!

Growing garlic from bulbils

So you have decided that you would like to try something a bit adventurous with your garlic production. Growing from bulbils has several advantages. First, you can easily multiply your garlic crop without having to buy a lot of bulbs or use all of your harvest for planting in the fall. The number of bulbils in an umbel or capsule varies according to the varieties; Porcelains can have up to 200 bulbils while Rocamboles will have from 15-10 bulbils. So from one garlic bulb, when you save the bulbils, you can start up to 200 plants as opposed to 4-6 for Porcelains, etc. You get the picture.

Another advantage to growing from bulbils is that the new plants will not have any soil-borne diseases; this is especially advantageous if you are changing locations for your garden. Bulbs grown up from bulbils are also more robust and vigorous than those grown from bulbs over several years. Bulbils are an easy and economical way to increase your crop or to renew it.

The one disadvantage to bulbils is that it can take from two to four years to get a good size bulb from a bulbil. So patience is needed!

Bulbils are planted at the same time as your cloves of garlic, around mid-October here in the Ottawa Valley. Planting in a raised bed, especially one that is framed, makes the process a bit simpler, I find. Make a furrow about an inch deep, with the rows spaced apart about 4 inches. The bulbils can be sown fairly thickly – they seem to like the crowding in their first year of growth. It also makes it easier to harvest them if you don’t have to search all over for single plants.  Cover the rows and apply mulch before it snows. Don’t make the mulch too thick, or the little plants may not be able to reach through to the sun. Another alternative is to pull back the mulch early in the spring.

As the bulbils grow take extra care to keep the rows weed free. These little plants are easily overwhelmed by weeds and grass and will not produce a good sized round for planting again in the fall.

When the bottom half of the leaves have dried, it is time to dig up the bulbils. The easiest way to cure them is to lay them on a porous surface, perhaps some screen stretched over a frame, so that air can get at them from all sides. Put them in a dry place out of the sun, with good airflow and let them dry until the tops are completely dry and brittle. At this point the tops and roots can be removed and the rounds stored in a paper bag in a cool dry place until it is time to plant them again in the fall.

Depending on the variety of garlic, this process may have to be repeated up to three or four times until you get a large, cloved bulb to harvest and use.

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