Our columnist Mark Hix on how his good friend Mark Botwright is changing the way we use garlic in cooking

 
Mark Hix
Criminally underused garlic scapes

What the hell are these?” I wondered when I was first offered garlic scapes by Mark “The Garlic Farmer” Botwright. He’s been secretly experimenting with garlic growing just outside of Charmouth, where I live, for years. He has a unique thing going on down there and he’s unlocked an awful lot of products from this everyday kitchen staple.

One example of how he’s transformed this humble ingredient is his Dorset Black Garlic. He slow dries the bulbs in a heated cabinet, where the garlic turns black and caramelised, and sells it as a luxury condiment.

The delicious fresh bulbs speak for themselves and he grows various varieties, including fist-sized elephant garlic. My favourite bits of the plant, though, are the garlic scapes, which are the shoots that grow tall and almost asparagus like. They are mild and not at all what you’d expect; we even serve them steamed as a starter sometimes.

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Post-wild garlic season, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, these scapes are the only bit of the plant that are still in season – for a little while at least. (after a few weeks they die off to allow the garlic bulbs to develop).

If you grow garlic at home, you should make use of the whole plant. It’s the perfect time of year to harvest these long shoots, blanch, toss them in butter and scatter them over meat or fish. Or just eat them on their own. Delicious.

Scrumpy fried garlic scapes

Serves 4-6

  • 120g gluten-free Doves Farm self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 200ml cold dry cider
  • 6-8 garlic scapes, halved
  • Oil for deep frying
  • Salt and black pepper

Method

• To make the batter, put the flour into a bowl and slowly whisk in the cider until you have a smooth consistency, then season.

• Meanwhile, heat some vegetable oil to 160–180°C (320–360°F) in a deep-fat- fryer or heavy-based saucepan (no more than half full). Test the oil by dropping in a little batter: if it browns after 30 seconds or so, it’s ready.

• Dip the garlic scapes into the batter. Cook them a few at a time for a minute or so until they are crisp and lightly golden.

• Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and place them on a plate with kitchen paper on it. Then lightly season with salt.

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