Garlic scapes

That’s good eats!

I love garlic. It is one of the easiest crops to grow, it keeps all year (if you grow the right varieties) and early summer it produces a “scape,” a delicious and fleeting delicacy.

Before I go any further, there is one thing I want to make very clear: Garlic scapes are not “ramps,” no matter how insistent and sincere you may be when telling me so. They are two very different things. We good? Excellent. Let’s continue.

Garlic scapes are the flower stalks that the garlic plant puts out. If you let it grow, you’ll get a small but attractive white flower, but it will affect the size of your garlic head and you don’t want to grow garlic from the seeds, so it is best to cut off the scape before it gets too large and unfurls. The general recommendation that I follow is to harvest when the scape is about as thick as a pencil or it starts to uncurl, as some scapes will never get as thick as a pencil.

Rows of curly goodness.

There are many ways you can use the scapes, in stir fries, in salads, etc., but I prefer to harvest large batches and turn them into garlic scape pesto.

Scape pesto not only tastes awesome, it doesn’t brown the way basil pesto does. That means you can place a tub of scape pesto on the table for dipping over a leisurely afternoon without it turning into a puddle of brown goo. Scape pesto also freezes well, just like basil pesto, so it can be enjoyed throughout the year. In the fall, I find that garlic scape pesto pizza with chunks of fresh mozzarella hits the spot.

One more culinary tip: Pine nuts are expensive and can lead to a metallic  taste for days. Cashews are less expensive, provide a more savory flavor, and aren’t going to ruin the next week of eating.

Harvest scapes by cutting with a sharp knife or clippers as low as possible on the scape, above the top leaf. Sometimes I include the flower in the pesto but typically not, and get rid of the “tail” at the tip of the flower – it never chops well.

A tasty, tangled web of scapes.

Garlic Scape Pesto recipe:

10-15 scapes
1/2 cup cashews
3/4 cup parmesan, grated
2/3 to 1 cup of olive oil

  1. Prepare scapes by washing and removing flower head, or at least the tail. Chop into pieces 3″ or smaller.
  2. Place scapes and cashews into food processor and process until they’re both relatively fine.
  3. Add parmesan.
  4. Cover, process while slowly pouring oil through the top to create an emulsion.

Serve immediately, refrigerate for a few days or place in freezer-appropriate container for longer storage.



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