The Australian garlic season is just about to start. (It generally runs from November and ends around May.) Australian garlic is far superior to garlic that has been shipped from the other side of the world, plain and simple. With so much produce now available all year ’round I think we often forget to appreciated beautiful produce when it’s at it’s best but new season garlic, when it’s crisp and juicy is amazingly good.
If you’ve ever forgotten about your garlic and left it in the fruit bowl, it may have begun to sprout (unless it’s the irradiated and bleached Chinese kind) I’d never heard the term ‘scapes’ before but that’s what those curly shoots that end in a little bulb are called.
They come up before the garlic bulb is ready for harvesting and are generally removed so that the plants can put all their energy into growing the garlic bulb.
According to Tessa Lock and Julian Wall who grow organic Australian giant garlic in the Orara Valley in northern NSW, most growers don’t bother selling them, and they become cattle fodder or compost.
The couple have started harvesting and selling the scapes mainly to upmarket restaurants and from Monday they’ll be sold in QLD via United Organics in Brisbane, so you’ll be able to get them from good fruiterers. The season is short (just a few weeks) and the scapes are being harvested right now. (Ask your fruit shop to get them if they don’t have).
“We remove the flower heads or ‘scapes’ from the plants to
promote better growth of the bulb, and the harvested parts are sold as
‘garlic asparagus’. They are delicious steamed, in stir fry or roasted,
and are far more convenient to use for making aioli etc than the garlic
bulbs,” Tessa says.
I’ve actually tried them ( a bit nervously not knowing if they were edible) from my own garden a couple of years ago when I tried growing garlic. The flavour is like a gentler garlic and you can use the scapes both as a seasoning and a vegetable. Tessa says they are great in stir-fry, casseroles and stews. I reckon they’d also be nice char-grilled with olive oil, lemon and a sprinkle of sea salt or used in place of spring onions or chives in a crispy rice flour pancake.
If you get hold of some, let me know what you use them for. I suspect we might be seeing some on restaurant menus around town in the next few weeks too.