One of the first things I planted in my square-foot garden were garlic bulbs from some great garlic I'd purchased at a farmer's market. This was last fall. Sometime after our very mild Seattle winter, green shoots started coming up; very exciting business. They grew and grew, until they reached a certain height (about 3 feet), then stopped. After a few more months of waiting, longer than usual, probably, due to the extremely mild spring/summer Seattle has been experiencing, the garlic finally started sending up scapes, which is one of the first signs of the plant starting to mature (if you leave them alone long enough, they'll eventually flower). As a gardener and a cook, the scapes are a wonderful thing to look forward to. They're tasty, and by cutting them off the garlic plant, it allows the garlic to put more energy into developing the bulb of garlic beneath the earth.
Garlic scapes grow out curly. It's usual to wait until the scape has made one or two loops before harvesting. I harvested mine a few days ago, so now all that's left is to wait for the leaves to turn brown, then dig those garlic bulbs out of the ground!
There are a great many thing you can do with scapes, which taste mildly of garlic. The most popular method of eating them seems to be in a quick stir-fry, or roasting them like asparagus. The stem of the scape is solid, while from the bulbil up, the scape is hollow like a scallion. Some like to cut off the bulbil and only eat the stem, while others like eating the whole thing. It's up to you.
After some research, I decided to make garlic scape pesto. Not only do I love normal pesto, but this way, I'd also be able to stretch my scape harvest as much as possible -- garlic scape pesto freezes well.
If you're familiar with making pesto, you know the ingredients involved are few and simple: garlic scapes/basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, olive oil, and salt. Here I've got the ingredients in my new Viking food processor.
A few minutes later, I had garlic scape pesto, which was so incredibly inviting with its bright green freshness. I bottled most of it to be frozen (I plan to enjoy it slowly over the summer, hopefully mostly when my tomatoes have come in), but set some aside for one serving of pasta.
It was, in a word, heavenly. I was tempted to pull the jar of pesto out of the freezer and just eat pasta for the next few days until it was all gone, but I managed to refrain. It doesn't taste like pesto made from basil. It definitely has a garlicky flavor, but isn't overwhelmed by it. Garlic scape pesto has its own delicious charm.
Garlic scape season is all too fleeting, but this is one of the ways it can be preserved for just a little while yet.
Garlic Scape Pesto
- 12 garlic scapes
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 1/2-1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup of pine nuts
- salt to taste
- Chop the scapes into one-inch lengths, bulbils and all.
- Add the chopped scapes, cheese, pine nuts, and 1/4 cup of the olive oil to a food processor.
- Puree the mixture, adding more olive oil in a thin stream as desired. (Less for a thicker consistency, more for thinner.) Scrape down as necessary to make sure all the ingredients are evenly processed.
- Add salt to taste at the end, and pulse a few times to combine.