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Leek scapes are long, slender green stalks measuring from 20 to 30 centimeters long, with light green or yellow bulbs near the end with tips that taper to a point. The scapes are harvested once the flower pods have developed and while the stems are still pliable and tender. If left to grow they will toughen and produce large purple pom-pom like flowers. Leek scapes offer a mild garlicky aroma and a mild allium flavor, with an asparagus-like texture.
Leek scapes are available in the late spring and early summer months.
Leek scapes are the young flower stalks and buds of the cultivated Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum. They generally appear in the late spring and are a seasonal favorite for chefs and home cooks alike. Leek scapes can signal the end of the plant’s lifecycle but are also produced in response to extreme shifts in the weather. Newly formed, thinner Leek scapes are snapped off the plants like stalks of asparagus, leaving the remainder of the plant to continue growing.
Leek scapes contain much of the same nutritional value as the rest of the plant. They are an excellent source of vitamins B6 and K, iron, manganese and fiber. They contain folate, insulin, sulfur and beneficial prebiotics.
Leek scapes are used to impart a subtle garlic or onion flavor to many dishes. The tender Leek stalks are preferred, because the tougher stalks will remain tough after cooking. Cut Leek scapes diagonally and add to soups and stir fries. They are eaten raw, added to salads or cold pasta or grain dishes. Leek scapes are pickled or used in place of garlic for pesto. Blanch the tops and chop finely for use as a garnish or seasoning. Sautee or grill them and serve alongside meats or fish. Leek scapes can be prepared in much the same way as the smaller green stalks; toss in olive oil and roast or chop and sauté. Store Leek scapes in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Leek scapes are not generally available in large chain grocery stores. Because most leek cultivars take up to 9 months to grow, commercial farms are clearing their fields of overwintered plants for their spring planting season, harvesting leeks for the markets well before scapes would form. Leeks are also a bit temperamental to grow being sensitive to extreme changes in temperature. They can produce scapes at odd times, when temperatures increase or decrease within a short period of time.
Leeks are native to the higher altitudes of the Mediterranean Region. They grow best in temperate areas where summers are cooler. There are several different leek cultivars, with different maturity rates, some ready for harvest in the late summer and others ready to be harvested in winter or the following spring. Leek scapes appear generally in the second year after an initial planting. Leeks grown as annuals and cultivars with shorter growing times won’t produce scapes. Leek scapes can be spotted at markets in most regions with temperate climates.
Recipes that include Leek Scapes. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Know Whey||Braised Veal with Leek Scapes|
|A Baking Life||Asian Pickled Leek Scapes|
|Purely Primal||Sauteed Leek Scapes and Radishes|