Garlic scapes are one of the great pleasures of late spring and early autumn. They’re the flower buds and upper stalks of garlic plants, which farmers trim off in the spring so that the garlic puts its energy into its bulb rather than its flower. You might think these prunings are compost material, but fortunately, some hungry soul tasted them and discovered that they are absolutely delicious. They taste mildly of garlic, and have a texture similar to that of slender asparagus. They are beautiful, in a bizarre, Doctor Seuss kind of way, looping every which way, tangling themselves into long chains so that you can never pick up just one.
(They also make excellent accessories.)
Another herald of early summer is better known, but not nearly so well-loved. Summer squash is watery, tasteless, and far too prolific, people say. It becomes the butt of gardening jokes: if you park your car in the summer, be sure to lock it, otherwise you’ll end up with a basket of zucchini on the back seat.
It makes me feel rather sorry for the poor vegetable, because it isn’t nearly as bad as its reputation would suggest. Certainly it isn’t as stylish as garlic scapes, but treat it right—pick small, young squash, branch out beyond the ubiquitous zucchini, and for goodness sakes don’t overcook it—and summer squash is a treat to look forward to. The squash I’ve used here is a Zephyr, a gorgeous yellow-and-green banded squash, but you can use crookneck, pattypan, Magda, or even plain old zucchini. You can serve it as a side dish, over pasta with Parmesan, or in a quesadilla—or you can just stand in the middle of the kitchen eating it plain with your fingers.
Summer Squash with Garlic Scapes
- olive oil
- 4-6 garlic scapes, cut into 1/4-inch pieces, the woody ends discarded
- 2 small summer squash, cut into 1/4 inch rounds
- pinch thyme
- salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic scapes and cook, stirirng, until the scapes start to soften and become fragrant. Throw in the squash and thyme and continue to stir and cook until the squash is just tender, 4-5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.