Thursday, January 14, 2010

Reuters Photo

In 1997 just days before the British Colony of Hong Kong was handed back to China, I was walking through the streets of Hong Kong taking in the wonderful and not so wonderful aromas of the markets; when I happen chanced upon the curiosity (for me) of "Garlic Stems" aka "Garlic Scapes".

I wanted to see Hong Kong before it was handed back to Mainland China. Everybody at the time was in a state of panic over what would happen to the island after it fell into communist hands.

I walked by store fronts (not produce) and noticed plates full of fresh garlic with thick green stems about 10 inches high sprouting from the bulbs. The garlic was usually situated on the counter by their cash register or in the store front window, amazing I thought... I wonder if they are edible, just for decoration or a religious offering to Buddha?

This is funny because I was an experienced international produce buyer with 15 years under my belt and of course I had imported chives (gow choy) and flowering chives (gow choy fa) from Taiwan for years but had never run across garlic stems before. Sometimes it can take years before growing and production methods and technology is advanced enough to bring a product to market.

If you love the taste of onions and garlic then I recommend trying garlic stems. Today they are widely available in asian markets and even in "authentic cuisine" chinese restaurants. They taste wonderful stirfried in a wok (cut in 1 inch strips) for about 3 - 4 minutes with a little bit of oil, salt to taste, a sprinkle of sugar and some soy sauce. Also a great addition to wok-fried seafood with a bit of chinese cooking wine.

When you are buying garlic stems, the stalks of this vegetable should be very firm similar to celery. Limpness means the product is very old or has been sitting in the hot sun and deteriorating. If the flowers are still attached, the buds should be tightly closed, compact and no wetness or slime should be evident. The stalks themselves can have a nice healthy mixture of green and yellow color but if their aroma is overpowering (almost a stench) this means they're not fresh

I hope I've introduced you to a new vegetable that you will love and enjoy and adds a new dimension to your cooking.

1 comment:

  1. Eating them as I read this... they are yummy! Went looking to find out exactly what they are and came across your blog. Stir fried mine with my talapia and a little bit of olive oil... :)


Thanks for visiting the Produce Blog, I can be reached directly at if you require an immediate reply to your questions.