Meet my new favorite food. Can you name it?

Growing food is simply magical. That’s the short version for you.

Here’s the expanded one . . .

Take peppers.

Some are sweet, some are spicy, but all peppers have the same job; to add excitement to a dish. Peppers enliven salsa, casseroles, pizza, and omelets. They add a splash of color everywhere they go and pack a punch of flavor just as vibrant.

Then there’s the potato plant.

Perhaps even more impressive than the beauty of it all is the perfectly packaged practicality. The calorie-dense, carb-rich potato can be stored for months in a box, bucket, or barrel. No wrapping, processing, or preserving is required after a potato harvest. They can be roasted, boiled, fried, hashed, mashed, or creamed. It’s no wonder that the potato has saved entire populations from starvation. That is, to anyone who’s grown them.

And what about cucumbers?

To me, munching a just-picked cucumber in a shady place in the garden is as exquisite as any culinary delicacy.

Do you recognize these swan-necked delights? They were a novelty to me when we moved to Montana. You might call them garlic, but that’s a very simplified identification. These edible seed heads are called garlic “scapes.” When I first heard of them and how they spring from the garlic plant, unfurling a gourmet treat an entire month before the bulbs are ready to harvest, I marveled that I had not heard of them before. I grew up literally twenty minutes away from the garlic capital of the world. Come to find out, I hadn’t missed this novelty for my twenty-one years as a California girl. Because “scapes” were not among the agricultural land…scape of the central valley.

Fun fact: soft-neck garlic doesn’t grow scapes, only hard-neck varieties do. Apparently, California grows soft-necks and you have to go north for the garlic to . . . toughen up. (I’m still waiting for this magic to work on me.) Anyway, when our garlic plants began unfurling their scapes, graceful as a flock of waterbirds, I was awestruck. Then, I began asking my Montanan gardening friends what in the world I should do with them. Put them in salsa, they said. Add them to soups and stew. Use them in pesto. Sautee them in place of green onions. The possibilities seemed limitless.

So, this summer I’ve experimented with scapes and made some very happy discoveries. Firstly, it’s not just hype; garlic scapes are truly delicious. In my opinion, they are superior to garlic itself. Don’t be mad, California. You’ve got avocados after all. Secondly, scapes can indeed be used in just about any savory dish. I especially love roasting them on a tray with our oyster mushrooms tossed in olive oil and salt. What comes out is a crisped topping as good as bacon bits (I kid not) to be sprinkled on eggs, soup, pizza, salad, or pasta. And thirdly, from a self-sustainability perspective, garlic scapes are a lovely way to extend a crop’s yield and season. We enjoyed the fresh garlic that hovered over its bed for more than a month while the bulbs continued to fatten below ground.

If you live in hard-neck country (the northern states), you’ve got to get growing scapes if you haven’t before! Garlic planting is coming up and it’s one of my very favorite things to get into the ground. I love low-maintenance crops, and garlic may be the queen of them all.

If you haven’t ordered your garlic starts yet, here’s our exclusive discount code you can use for an order to Epic Gardening! They’ve been selling out of varieties fast, but there are still some left (at the time I’m posting this). Warning: affiliate link incoming!

*We plant our garlic in October up here in Montana, right before or just after the first snow.

Thanks for reading!

Love, Candace Arden

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