Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Garlic Scapes! (or tails, tops, what have you)

Garlic Scapes, or however else you call them, are the tops of the garlic plant, which need to be cut to promote bulb growth mid-season. Many people are unfamiliar with this delicious and fresh, milder form of garlic, but they happen to be perhaps my favorite vegetable and I hope people enjoy experimenting with them in this weeks' CSA share. They are incredibly tender after only a few minutes of cooking, and pack all the nutrients found in garlic. So here are some scape tips:
In a salad:
Chop them up and throw them in a salad, they'll add a garlicky punch that is really nice for garlic fans-it isn't as strong as real garlic, so don't worry. I haven't done this, but something tells me they would be great in a salad ni├žoise.

Cut off the tough ends and tops of the flower tips of your scapes and sautee in butter or olive oil; I've done this with a tablespoon or two of brown or white sugar (caramalize the sugar briefly in the oil, then add the scapes) or with soy sauce- or both- with excellent results. Scapes only need a few minutes of cooking.

Thai Coconut Curry with Garlic Scapes:
Lots of people have a recipe for something like this, and the garlic scapes would work just as well in a stir-fry. Treat the scapes like scallions and chop them up and throw them in with the onion. I made a coconut curry with some friends last night which had coconut milk, lemon grass, ginger, garlic scapes, onion, purple cabbage, carrot, chilis, green peppers and tofu. And yes, it was very good. Just remember to use an oil with a high heat point (peanut oil is good) so you can cook it fast and hot.

And last but not least: Pickled Garlic Scapes!
Yes, that is right, pickled garlic scapes! Exclamation points are necessary because these are just so good, and let you enjoy scapes all through the winter. Pickle them as you would to make dilly beans or pickles (but extra garlic is unnecessary).

photo credits: Patti Truant, Christiana Usenza

Monday, June 15, 2009

Keeping produce fresh

Countless CSA members have praised the freshness and flavor of local organic produce. From my own experience, the first time I enjoyed fresh corn from Maryland's own One Straw Farm, the taste and texture were so rich and flavorful that I felt as though I was eating an entirely novel and unfamiliar food. Conventionally grown crops, in contrast, are typically bred (either via hybridization or transgenic lab technology) for long-shelf lives, uniform size, pest resistance and durability over long and bumpy transport. As a result, conventional produce is often comparatively bland.

You may find that fresh organic produce spoils a bit earlier than their conventional counterparts. To preserve freshness and convenience, wash and store your greens as soon as you get home. Consuming them earlier in the week will minimize nutrient loss over time.

Some CSA members have endorsed GreenBags, which reportedly prolong freshness. I haven't yet tried them myself, but anything to minimize food waste is probably a worthwhile venture.

Discarded organic material heads to a landfill, where the decomposition process releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas. If you find yourself discarding organic material and you don't have a composting system of your own, you can bring it with you the next time you head to Whole Foods by the harbor, where you can drop it off in a compost bin (no sense making a special trip to drop it off, lest you negate the environmental benefits by driving). Storing it in the freezer works well (frozen compost, I know, sounds weird - but it won't smell or attract insects, and a full fridge/freezer actually uses less energy).

Recommended resource: How to keep your vegetables fresh