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Ninikunome have stalk-like long forms with a thickness that is the same from top-to-bottom. Their texture is crisp akin to that of green beans and they offer a taste and smell similar to yet milder than that of actual garlic. When selecting Ninikunome, choose ones that are elastic and vivid green in color not yellow or brown which is an indication they are old.
Ninnikunome are available year-round.
Ninnikunome (Japanese translation: garlic sprouts), also known as Kukininniku (garlic stalks) and garlic curls are not sprouts, rather they are scapes of garlic stretching out to bear flowers. Produced by hardneck garlic varieties they are a member of the Allium family. Today, Ninnikunome can often be found at local farm stands that are near train stations right after harvesting occurs in Japan. Some Japanese and Chinese garlic cultivars select and grow specifically for scape production.
Unlike eating garlic from the bulb, Ninnikunome can be consumed efficiently because of its mild garlic flavor. They have the same nutrients as traditional garlic and additionally they contain beta-carotene and dietary fiber and are rich in vitamin C.
Ninnikunome can be used to add flavor to a variety of different savory preparations. Because of their mild garlic flavor they can be added to any dish in lieu of onion or garlic, such as stir-fries, soups, salads, rice dishes, pasta, pesto and hummus. Even when cooked they will maintain their vivid green color. They can also simply be served fried or grilled. For short-term storing, keep them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. For long term storing they can be parboiled and frozen for future use.
Japanese monks believed that garlic could cause lust and anger and hinder their training, so the consumption of garlic was prohibited. Eventually, the prohibition of garlic spread to common people in 764.
Ninnikunome are produced in Aomori prefecture and Kagawa prefecture in Japan. In the U.S., they can be found at farmers markets or at local farm stands during the late spring and early summer however it is unusual to find them in commercial grocery stores. A botanical term, ‘scape’ is a stem that bears a flower. Thus scapes represent an immature stage of garlic stalks. When a bulb grows and hardens, a scape shows its head through the ground and curls in pig tail-like form before straightening. Garlic extends its scape to produce flowers in spring, then Ninikunome are cut in order to keep its nutrients in the bulbs rather than in the flowers.
Recipes that include Ninnikunome. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Weekend at the Cottage||Grilled Garlic Scapes|
|Food & Wine||Pan-Seared Bass with Garlic Scape Salmoriglio|
|That Spicy Chick||Stir-Fried Garlic Scapes with Pork & Tofu|
|The Woks Of Life||Garlic Scapes Stir-Fry|
|Red Cook||Vegetarian Stir-Fried Garlic Scape|