I first saw garlic scapes in a tangled heap at a farmers’ market and wondered what they were. I soon found out plus how to use them by chatting with the farmer who grew them. I don’t remember seeing scapes before 10 or 12 years ago but now they seem much more common, even if only at a Greenmarket.
Garlic scapes are the above ground green shoots of the garlic plant, something like a bud of a flower. They appear in the spring with the leaves of the plant and farmers prune them off so that all of the energy of the plant can go to the growing bulb, not its shoots. Think of them as the vegetable part of the garlic plant – another tasty green thing to enliven our cooking!
Scapes can be used just like garlic – sliced, diced or minced – to add garlic flavor to all kinds of foods. They are a bit like dense, crunchier green beans that taste like milder garlic. I think scapes are especially good sautéed with other spring vegetables, like asparagus, bok choy, baby greens and radishes but can be cooked and mashed with potatoes, steamed with broccoli or used anywhere you would add green garlic. Scapes make delicious chartreuse-colored pesto, both as the main ingredient or just as the garlic part of a basil or other variety pesto. They can be blended into a vinaigrette or added to an omelet, frittata or stir fry. There are seemingly endless ways to use scapes and they keep for several weeks in a refrigerator drawer.
Fortunately for us, many farmers at our greenmarkets now sell garlic scapes. It is the beginning of their season so they are just appearing and should be available for a few weeks. If you make pesto out of them this month and put it in your freezer, you will be rewarded with an easy green vegetable to use come winter. Right now garlic scapes are a fragrant, savory green addition to our late spring meals.
Garlic Scape Pesto
- 2 cups cut garlic scapes, about 12-15 scapes cut in 1/4-1/2 inch pieces
- 1 cup chopped parsley, about one small bunch (optional but adds lots of nutrients)
- 1tsp salt
- 4 TBsps olive oil, or more
- 1/2 cup walnuts, or your choice of nut (optional)
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan (optional)
Put cut up scapes and salt in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. If using nuts, parsley or cheese, add and pulse until completely ground. With the motor running, add oil until the pesto is the consistency you like.
Use right away or pack in small glass containers or jars with a very thin layer of olive oil on top (to keep it from oxidizing) and refrigerate or freeze for future use. We use about 1/2 – 3/4 cup for a pound of pasta or tofu – I also add a little more salt and some black pepper – just taste and see if you think it needs more. You can add a squeeze of lemon just before serving.
Don’t forget that pesto is not just for pasta (although it is delicious that way): It is wonderful on baked fish, chicken, tofu, potatoes and summer squashes and also enlivens rice, quinoa and many vegetables.