Produce at its Peak: Garlic & Greentops

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Don't throw those radish greens away!

Planted last fall, garlic bulbs won’t be harvested for another week or so. Once harvested, in order to store they will need to cure for at least a few additional weeks. Luckily, garlic plants offer up a scape to keep us sated while we wait. Garlic scapes are the flower stalks of the hard-neck garlic varieties that grow in our cool (cold) climes. They emerge in early summer and curl elegantly a few times before they are snipped, diverting the plant’s energy from producing bulbils to developing a bulb.

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Garlic scapes (above) have a fresh verdant garlic flavor and may be used in place of garlic cloves. Slice thinly and sauté with greens or add to stir fries. Chop with herbs and olive oil — add an oily nut to make a pesto or capers to make a salsa verde — and serve with grilled bread and burrata or toss with grilled vegetables and pasta.

Grilling mellows the garlic bite of the scape. Toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper and place them directly on the grill. Turn once and sprinkle with a little more salt. Remove when the scapes are slightly charred and tender but not soft. Grilled scapes make a delicious complement to grilled meats.

There are many early root vegetables available at the moment with their greens intact. This is an indication of freshness, as the delicate greens deteriorate before the longer-storing roots. It is also a culinary bonus, since both the greens and the roots are edible.

If you purchase green-top kohlrabi, radishes, turnips, carrots, or beets, don’t discard the greens. Instead, remove the greens and store them separately. Once cooked, turnip and radish greens resemble mustard greens, kohlrabi greens taste like kale, beet greens like chard, and carrot greens may be used in place of parsley as a garnish, in a pesto, or in dressings.

As the weather heats up we may see a decline in supply or the end of some crops that thrive in cooler temperatures. Rhubarb appears to be in steady supply at the moment, but it may be affected by peaking July temps. Luckily rhubarb preserves well and can be frozen, canned, or pickled.

Rhubarb is most often prepared with sugar to moderate the tartness and served in sweet settings — jams, cakes, and pies. However, rhubarb can easily make a statement in savory dishes as well. I particularly enjoy rhubarb cooked with star anise and ginger, strained and pureed, as a sauce to accompany a seared duck breast. This would be equally delicious alongside pork chops or wild game.