Food

Foraging for Garlic Scapes Along the West Side Highway

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On the east side of the West Side Highway, just north of 12th Street, there are garlic scapes in profusion.

Garlic scapes are the green shoots and flower tops of the garlic bulb, which grows underground. The texture is somewhat woody, making for a nice crunch you may have never enjoyed from garlic before. The flavor is stingingly strong, and if some of the juice runs out of the stem and oozes onto your hand, it will smell like garlic for days.

The scapes might have once been part of a roadside planting, but they’ve descended into anarachy, and many of the tufts are located among forests of weeds. A little goes a long way. Pick two or three, blanch them, and you have a nice salad topping. Sauteed, the same number chopped fine makes a nice omelet. Leave the bulb in the ground when you take the scape and it will reproduce tenfold or more.

Take only the green shoot and bud on top, and take sparingly, because the scapes are so powerful.