Garlic scapes, or garlic spears, represent the birth of a flower. They whip out of the tall garlic plant, curling and facing downward in crane-like grace, awaiting the moment of bloom. As a gardener and cultivator of garlic bulbs, I carry the painful duty of decapitating them, forcing the energy of the sun back underground. This difficult act obliges me to make what use I can from the heads, as I would an animal, such as a pig. Coupled with my recent attraction to Japanese flavors, I attempt to–and, pardon the pun–give a bit more body to these severed heads.
**I ought to add that harvesting garlic scapes too late may almost certainly result in stringiness. You can diminish this by boiling them for up to 30 minutes, depending on their size. It is best to snip these while the plants are still young.**
- 250 g. garlic scapes (also called garlic spears, sold at some markets in spring and summer)
- 10 g. ginger, peeled, sliced (about a 3-inch knob)
- 6 g. konbu (about 1 8-inch strip), cut into 2- or 3-inch pieces
- 4 green shiso leaves
- 1-1/2 cups water
- 1-1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
- 2/3 cup mirin
- 2 Tbsp. white sugar
- 5 tsp. sea salt
Get your sterilized canning jars ready. I used two 32-oz Kerr jars.
If the garlic scapes are tough, blanch for a couple minutes in salted water. Shock in an ice bath. I did this to tenderize them.
In a saucepan, bring the ginger, water, rice wine vinegar, mirin, sugar and salt to a boil. Taste and adjust flavors–sour, salty, sweet–as you prefer. Turn off heat and add the konbu. Let sit 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, rub and crush the shiso leaves, distributing them equally into the bottom of each jar. Stuff in the cold garlic scapes. Remove the konbu and ginger, evenly distributing them throughout the jars. Finish by pouring the brine inside the jars. If you need more brine, add more vinegar and/or water, depending on preference. Seal and let sit overnight before refrigerating.
Wait ten days before opening and serving, although a few months will allow the subtle flavors or the konbu and shiso to open more.