No, not snakes on a plane. Scapes on a train—or more specifically, garlic stalks stir-fried with pork and oyster sauce in the dining car of a Chinese train bound for Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. In this week’s Food Section, globetrotting food critic Ari LeVaux talks about the pulse-quickening moment he first encountered garlic flowers and stalks—collectively called scapes. Scapes are in season right now, and preparing them at home is inexpensive and easy. (Unlike some of the other international train rides Ari has taken.)
The first time I ate garlic flowers was for breakfast on a train from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The dining car didn't have a menu: You just sat down and they brought you food. A server delivered a plate of stir-fried chopped green things with pork and oyster sauce, along with a bowl of rice. It was years before that I realized that the pencil-thick green things were pieces of garlic flowers and flower stalks, collectively known as scapes.
Searching for the best crops to plant with garlic, Ari LeVaux developed a technique called "tossing seeds randomly." He put all the seeds he didn't get around to planting last year into a jar, shook it up and threw them by handfuls. This experiment produced the "garlic patch friends" and a springtime strategy for maximum yields.