Pickling Leek Tops

pickled leek scapesWhile happily munching pickled garlic scapes—budding flower stalks, that is—at the Portland restaurant Evoe, my daughter suggested I try pickling some scapes of the many leeks going to seed in my garden. I had never eaten leek tops before, and the garlic tops at Evoe were a little tough for my taste. Besides, the length and rigidity of either garlic or leek scapes would make them hard to pickle in small quantity; you’d need a very big jar, which you’d want to fill well to avoid wasting vinegar (a big jar full of erect scapes was sitting, in fact, on the restaurant counter). But I wondered: What if I blanched my scapes before pickling them? That might make them tender enough to suit my taste and limp enough to curl into a small jar. So here’s what I made the next day:

Quick-Pickled Leek Scapes

6 ounces leek tops, clipped about 6 inches below the bud
1 garlic clove, sliced
½ teaspoon pink peppercorns, crushed
1 tarragon sprig
2/3 cup white wine vinegar
1 1/3 cups water
2 teaspoons pickling salt

Bring a wide pan of water to a boil, and blanch the scapes for 2 minutes. Rinse them immediately in cold water, and drain them well. Then curl them into a jar. Add the garlic, pink peppercorns, and tarragon.

Heat the vinegar, water, and salt just to a boil, and pour the liquid over the scapes. Once the jar has cooled, store it in the refrigerator. The scapes will be ready to eat within a day.

As you can see, I used a bulbous 1-liter Weck jar for this pickle, because even blanched the scapes were too stiff for a narrower container. The jar could have held twice as many scapes (if you want to pickle more, just increase the other ingredients accordingly). The texture of the scapes was just right, and I loved the licorice-like note of the tarragon, though it was a little too strong for my husband. Next time I might try black pepper and fresh dill instead.

I took care, by the way, to leave plenty of leeks to flower in the garden. While pickled scapes are a pretty garnish for the table, flowering leeks are more striking still, and you can save the seeds for planting next year.

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