Plant Rant: Scaping into Summer with Garlic

Allium sativum - garlic scapes from 6/1/2011

How did it get to be the end of June already? The moist cool days of spring abruptly changed into the hazy, hot, humid, daze of summer, and the garden has been without any significant rain for weeks now. Looking back to the beginning of the month, all of the terraces were graced by a profusion of garlic scapes, and they were added to Soup du Duke on a daily basis. When I mention the garlic “scapes,” I am more often than not asked to define its meaning.

Technically:
Scape.  A leafless peduncle arising from ground level (usually from a basal rosette) in acaulescent plants. Plant Identification Terminology. An Illustrated Glaossary. Harris, James G. and Melinda Woolf.

or more simply put: a leafless flowering stem growing straight from the root or a bulb. As in the case of garlic of early June, the scapes are pencil thin curlicues spiraling up and out of the middle of the leaves with a swollen ivory bud that gradually tapers to a green point.

The scapes should be picked to sauté as a delicacy and thus coercing the energy that would normally form the bud and flower to go into the underground ripening bulb instead. The cut scapes are used like scallions or green onions, flavoring food with similarities of garlic but with more delicate flavor. In addition to Duke’s daily soup, I add scapes to my stir fry recipes, salads, avocados, dressings and just about anywhere I normally throw in garlic.

straightened garlic scapes with maturing flowers - 6/30/2011

As June slips into July, any residual uncut scapes have straightened and are bursting with an inflorescence of flowers containing small little tasty garlic bulblets. Note: if you don’t care how your breath smells, these bulblets are delicious to pop in your mouth for a quick garlic fix and to also add to your sautés. By not cutting off the scapes, the underground bulbs and cloves of the garlic will be small  and insufficiently plump. We purposely leave some of the scapes on the garlic at the Green Farmacy Garden since we like to show off bulblet botany, and we can add them readily to our vinaigrette that is served along with Duke’s soup.

Garlic flower bublets above

Garlic is ubiquitous in the Green Farmacy Garden as it contains a multitude of activities. Some of the plots where garlic is found include Alzheimer’s, Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure, Bacteria, Colds, Earache, Fever, Herpes, Virus, Aphrodisiac, Liver, Ulcers, Vaginitis and Vertigo. The active constituent, allicin, an organosulphate molecule, is released from the crushed garlic and has been widely researched for its antimicrobial and immune stimulating properties, as well as its efficacy for digestive ailments, inhibition of cancer cell growth, hypertension, and arteriosclerosis.  Some folks can’t stomach garlic and get indigestion from eating it raw or in too high a quantity. Others dislike garlic – claiming halitosis, or bad breath, which is caused because active constituents quickly travel from the bloodstream to the lungs and out through the mouth. Nursing mothers may want to avoid garlic as it could cause the baby gas or to dislike the taste of the milk. I advocate raw or fresh garlic for colds and flu particularly when made into soup with lots of onions, and ginger.  During these years that I have been fortunate to share Duke’s soup, which is laden with garlic, I have rarely gotten a cold or flu.

Calendula officinalis

Besides garlic, the garden is lush and bursting with the blooms of monarda, echinacea, anise hyssop, feverfew, poppies, Joe-pye, daturas, primroses, Deptford pinks, passionflower, watercress, water hemlock, oregano, St. Johnswort, calendula, chichory, lemon balm, red clover, Yerba mansa, yucca, houttuynia, yarrow, hollyhocks, marshmallow, lavender, catnip, plume poppy, mullein, elecampane and black cohosh.  Most exciting is the anticipation of one of the night blooming cactus, which is getting ready to open any night now – perhaps for the Fourth of July??? The goldenseal berries are ripe and the milk thistles seeds are drifting. The indigo buntings are singing at the treetops and the ovenbird calls from the forest floor.

Hydrastis canadensis - Goldenseal leaf and berry

The immature red-shouldered hawks are learning to independently hunt and the northern water snake watches me as I watch him or her. This is the season of abundance, the days are long, and life in the distant shadow of the nation’s capital spirals and straightens with plumping garlic.

Northern Water Snake keeping an eye on me in the Addictions Plot

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