Serve up this delicious + fragrant Garlic Scape Dal (Lentil Curry) with rice, roti or naan for a quick weeknight meal!
It is impossible to walk past a bin of garlic scapes at the farmer’s market and not do a double-take at the unruly entanglement of seemingly extra-terrestrial life. But it’s unearthly visual is only partly the allure: for those in the know, garlic scapes are fascinating for their short season and general unavailability, making it somewhat a rarity in the culinary world.
I myself was uninitiated to the world of scapes until about a year ago, when I saw it on a friend’s blog and made a mental note to keep an eye out for it. And it wasn’t until last week, when exploring a new Asian supermarket in the area, that I stumbled upon these beauties. A year ago, I probably wouldn’t have known what it was, or what to do with it, but this time I was prepared. I grabbed a few stems and waving my hands frantically in the air, attempted to show it to my husband who was busy choosing tomatoes in the aisle across from me. He answered my enthusiasm with an uninterested shrug and went back to the tomatoes, leaving me standing there, beaming alone at finally having found ‘The scape’!
What are Garlic Scapes?
It is common knowledge that garlic, as we know it, is a bulb that grows beneath the ground, but the lesser known scapes are the ‘flowering’ part of the garlic plant that grows above ground. The garlic plant does not flower, but rather sends out these flower ‘stems’ instead. Farmers remove the scapes a few weeks before harvest to help divert the plant’s nutrition to the bulbs instead. But what most people do not know is that this part of the plant, that’s usually discarded as waste, is perfectly edible, not to mention incredibly delicious! Which is why you don’t see garlic scapes in your usual grocery store, even during the season! Most people have to drive far and out to where it’s sold, and that too, only through word of mouth!
Even though they look like the weird, loopy cousins of the spring onion, they are in fact firmer (denser than French beans, almost like a raw sweet potato), and have a mild garlic taste, making them a wonderful substitute in places that call for garlic. You can also grind them up as pesto, grill them, roast them, add them to curries, sauces and stocks, and some even add garlic scapes in flower arrangements for their unique and exotic look! No two scapes are alike, and the way they bend and turn varies from stalk to stalk, and is a beauty to behold!
Although, the slightly ophidiophobic me can’t help wonder about the nightmare that would ensue when a bunch of green snakes find their way into a garlic scape bin! *shudder*
I’ve never tasted garlic scapes before, and other than hearsay and online descriptions, did not really know what to expect when cutting into one. So I decided to use it for the first time in this Garlic Scape Dal fry- to me, Dal is the ulterior blank canvas of Indian cuisine that you can paint on with infinite flavors. It is the quintessential comfort food that is capable of being so much more, if you set your mind to it. [Here’s a Black Truffle infused Dal that I enjoy making every now and then]
There is an art to cooking lentils, and it pains me to see it ignored. You first soak the lentil (I used Toor dal here) till it’s soft enough to be cut into with your nails. Drain the soaking water, rinse and add more water and cook till it’s soft enough to be mashed with little-to-no-effort into a creamy concoction. You can add flavors while cooking the lentils, or introduce the flavors at the end, or do both (as I like to do).
And if you’re eating garlic scapes for the first time, this Garlic Scape Dal is a good way to start your scape journey! And the next time you see a bin of these weird squiggly things in your market, grab them before they’re gone!