Garlic Scapes and Scape Pesto
Scape pesto is easy to make, and when frozen offers spring all winter long
A few years ago I somehow lost track of our garlic harvest and didn’t have any to replant. My sister’s friend Maria was kind enough to give us twelve bulbs to restart our garlic patch. When I asked Maria what kind it was and she replied, “Hardneck. From my grandmother’s garden. All nonna’s kids plant her garlic.”
She didn’t know if it was Russian, German, Italian, Siberian, French, or red, silver. It was nonna’s garlic and that was good enough for me. As far as I was concerned all it had to be was hardneck. We wanted the garlic scapes as well as the garlic.
From those twelve bulbs we replant garlic every year. Two years ago we planted 100 cloves, last year we planted 140 cloves. This year I’m shooting for 300 plus. Why? It’s easy to do, probably the most carefree thing I can stick in dirt and eat later. And then there’s those scapes again.
The latin name for garlic is allium sativum, and garlic is a relative of onions, chives, and leaks. As I mentioned above there are many different cultivars of garlic with many different flavor profiles. Some are sharp and hot, some are smooth and mild. Donna’s garlic is in the middle somewhere, which suits us fine. It has great garlic taste and is not overwhelming or hot. Except for the scapes, which can have some kick.
The scape is the flower stalk, which is not actually a flower but a bulbil containing the genetic copy of the original plant. You can plant these bulbils and in three years or so have garlic. But why wait. If you have the garlic bulb you can plant cloves that fall and have garlic the next year…and more garlic scapes.
When the scape has emerged from the center of the plant it starts growing fairly quick. In about a month it has curled around and starts pointing back upwards. This is the time you want to cut them from the plant. If you leave them one you can’t eat them. But I’m getting ahead of myself. If you leave them on they will take energy from the plant to make the bulbil and the garlic head below the ground will suffer. So cut them off and eat them. Some people, who I presume are mere garlic pikers, toss them in the compost pile. Fools.
How does one eat garlic scapes? Grill them, stir fry them, pickle them, make scape soup, or make pesto. We have a video of how fast it is to make garlic scape pesto on our Youtube channel you can view here.
To grill them we lightly coat them with olive oil, add a dash of salt and pepper, and toss them on a hot grill. The grill quickly, about 4 minutes on high so turn them often and don’t walk away or you’ll burn them. Because they are so curly they have a propensity to slide through the grate and into the bottom of the grill so watch how you turn them. When done eat them like candy or chop them up and add to your salad of fresh garden greens drizzled with honey and strawberry vinegar for a meal that’ll knock your socks off.
With all those garlic scapes floating around we tend to make a lot of scape pesto. Three cups of chopped scapes with some grated parmesan cheese, walnuts, and olive oil will make a hefty batch to freeze. Then you have garlic scape pesto for your winter time pasta.
One thing I have found is while you can harvest the scapes and refrigerate them the longer they are refrigerated the tougher the stem gets starting at the cut end. It also seems to pick up more garlic flavor and pungency.
Do you grow garlic? How do you use your scapes?
Here is our recipe for easy scape pesto.
- 4 cups garlic scapes (chopped)
- ½ cup parmesan cheese (grated)
- ½ cup walnuts (chopped)
- 1 cup olive oil
- Put the scapes into a food processor and pulse to coarsely chop.
- Stop processor and add the parmesan cheese and walnuts. Pulse more until the cheese and walnuts are incorporated well.
- With the processor running start adding the olive oil and blend until you have a paste-like consistency. You may need to add more oil but do so cautiously as you don’t want the pesto too thin. If it does get thin add more parmesan or walnuts to thicken.