Imagine sitting next to a farmers’ field somewhere in the south of France and being served an early summer Niçoise salad. It’s too early for beans, but fleurs d’ail are in season. They are succulent, salty and garlicy. Softened, not by cooking, but from a few weeks of fermentation.
What are fleur d’ail or garlic scapes?
Garlic scapes are the budding flower that comes just before the head of garlic is ready to harvest. It’s not something you would find in your average grocery store, but if you aren’t a gardener, you may be able to find them at your local farmers’ market in the months of May, June and July.
The whole curling stem is delicious, with a mild garlic flavour and an asparagus or green bean-like crunch. If not harvested in the budding stage, a scape will bloom with a bright purple flower.
- 2 cups of garlic scapes (or as many as you can find)
- 1-2 tsp salt (non-iodized)
- Filtered water (chlorine free)
- Starter culture (see notes)
- Dice the garlic scapes as required to pack them into a glass jar. I like to keep the curls whole, so I nest them, and pack them into the jar that way. It will require a bit more brine when scapes are kept whole.
- Mix the salt, water and starter culture. Pour over top of the scapes. Add more water if needed to ensure the scapes are submerged. Use a weight to keep them below the brine.
- Ferment somewhere cool and out of sunlight for 1-2 weeks (depending on taste).
-Read up on Fermentation Basics to avoid making a mistake with this very special crop.
-I usually use kefir whey as my starter, but you could also use sauerkraut juice or a purchased starter. This is really just an insurance policy to make sure that the ferment goes well, as it is possible to ferment without a starter.
-I usually ferment in a fido. You could also use a mason jar with an airlock or pickle-nipple lid. Or if you want to go low tech, and just cover your ferment with a clean cloth.
-These are delicious on pasta, with a nicoise or on their own.
I have to give credit to a local fermenting maven for inspiring me to ferment my scapes.