This little-known part of the garlic plant makes an amazing pesto.
What are Garlic Scapes?
Garlic is an allum, related to the onion.
Everyone is familiar with the garlic bulb, the part of the plant that grows underground and is harvested for its pungent cloves.
After the garlic is planted, it will send up long, thin green leaves. Then, in spring, the garlic scape will emerge. The scape is different from the garlic leaves in that it is shaped like one of those crazy curling drinking straws we loved as kids.
The scape contains the seed pod of the garlic plant. If allowed to mature, the scape will drop dozens of seeds onto the ground in an effort to reproduce.
The problem is that the garlic plant is genetically programmed for reproduction by seed. And it will put all of its energy into this little seed pod and almost no energy into the tasty bulb. If the garlic scape is allowed to mature, the harvested bulb will be puny.
So, the best thing to do is cut off the garlic scape and allow the plant to direct all its energy to creating a big fat garlic bulb.
How to use garlic scapes
Once the garlic scape is removed, don’t throw it out! They have a wonderful garlic flavor and have lots of culinary uses.
Garlic Scape Pesto
By far, my favorite way to use garlic scapes is to make garlic pesto. Roughly chop the scapes and spin them in a food processor with salt and olive oil until smooth. You can add a grated hard cheese like Parmesan, if desired. A pinch of red pepper flakes is nice as well.
Store your garlic scape pesto in the fridge for up to two weeks or freeze it for up to a year.
Garlic Scape Pesto is a great pasta topping, but I also use it with olive oil and a little vinegar as a marinade. Or, drop a big spoonful of Garlic Scape Pesto into your broth when making soup.
Use fresh Garlic Scapes in stir fry with just like you would any other veggie. It’s important that the Garlic Scapes be fresh and tender, though. If you wait too long to harvest them, they can get fibrous and a little woody.
Or, marinate the Garlic Scapes in soy sauce for a few hours (or overnight), and use them in your stir fry.
Top some grilled, hearty bread with a little Garlic Scape Pesto and chopped tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and a drizzle of olive oil.
If you really love Garlic Scapes, you can munch them raw right out of the garden. Make sure the shoots are tender and green. And, make sure your family loves a pungent garlic aroma because it will linger for a while!
Where to get Garlic Scapes
If you don’t grow garlic at home, you can find them in season at some farmers markets. But, know that the season is short and if you miss it, you’ll have to wait until next year. In most places, late spring/early summer is Garlic Scape season. When I had my small farm in Rhode Island, I always harvested Garlic Scapes during a 2 week period in June. Start asking around your farmers market in May to make sure you don’t miss out!