Seven years ago Jasper and I joined a CSA.
I think most people by now (especially those people reading this blog!) know what that is, but in case you don’t – a CSA is Community Supported Agriculture. Basically, they are small farms who sell “shares” of their business to other community members, usually at the beginning of the growing year, and in return you get a box of produce weekly for the remainder of the season. Your money supports the farm and helps them buy the seeds, equipment, fertilizer, etc. It’s truly a great way to help local farmers, and to discover new fruits and vegetables that you might not be able to find at traditional supermarkets.
Anyway, we were relatively new to the world of gardening and farming, and in one of the first boxes we got there were these mysterious curly things.
To make a long story short, they were garlic scapes. Scapes are the long, curly flower stalks of hard-necked garlic varieties. Cutting them off directs more energy into clove production, so harvesting scapes is really a win-win thing to do. Scapes have a slightly milder taste than normal garlic, and nice crisp texture. They can be used just like garlic, or chopped up and added fresh to salads, soups, pizzas, dips, etc. They’re really versatile and delicious little things!
June is scape season, and it only lasts a week or two at most. They’re best to take in while small and tender. Wait too long and they get tough and woody. If you haven’t cut them from your own garlic already, get yourself to the garden, the nearest farmer’s market, co-op or CSA stand as soon as you can, because by next week they’ll probably be gone.
Ephemeral things are kind of the best, don’t you think?
We harvested a few hundred scapes last week while weeding the garlic patch at the farm. I felt like a true farmer, almost, with my bag strung on my hip, wading through the garlic and snipping the base of scape stalks as I moved. In no time I had filled two bags full. We gave one bag away (I almost wish we hadn’t, so I could have chopped them up and frozen them, but shared food tastes better, right?) but with the other we were able to make about three quarts of pesto and seven jars of pickled scapes!
I am by no means a very good cook. But I do have a few things I can do pretty well, and pesto is one of them.
I made two different kinds: Garlic scape pesto with Genovese basil, and garlic scape pesto with Swiss chard. The taste between the two isn’t much different – I just went with the chard because I’d used up all the basil I was willing to cut off the plant! Also, you can make this pesto with the flower bulb intact or removed. The bulb is edible, and by the time you pulse everything in the food processor, there’s no difference in texture. It’s all a matter of preference.
GARLIC SCAPE PESTO WITH BASIL (OR CHARD)
- 1 fistful of garlic scapes, washed and diced (about 12-20 scapes, depending on how garlicky you want your pesto)
- 1 fistful of basil leaves (or chard)
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 splash of lemon juice
- 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
First, add the garlic scapes to the large bowl of a food processor and pulse these until they’re fairly smooth. You’ll probably have to scrape down the sides of the bowl fairly often.
Next, add the basil (or chard, if you’re going that route), pine nuts, salt and lemon juice. Again, pulse until fairly smooth.
Add the Parmesan and process until completely mixed in.
Lastly, you will want to slowly pour in the olive oil while the processor is on. It should turn into a nice smooth paste.
Make sure to taste it, and adjust accordingly!
Note: To store my pesto, I line muffin tins with silicone muffin liners, and fill them with pesto, usually about 2 tablespoons worth. Then I freeze them. Once frozen, I can pop them out of the muffin liners and store them in a freezer bag. Easy peasy!
Next up on our list was making pickled garlic scapes. Pickled garlic cloves are one of the highlights of our lives. We even had them at our wedding, and you know a girl has to be a dedicated garlic fan to eat it on her wedding day! We also enjoy pretty much anything that’s been pickled, so pickling the rest of the scapes was a no-brainer. And it was pretty simple to boot (which is a major plus in my kitchen)!
PICKLED GARLIC SCAPES
- About 1 1/2 pounds garlic scapes (cut into 2-3 inch pieces)
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons pickling salt
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
To each jar add:
- 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1/4 teaspoon white mustard seed
- 1/4 teaspoon brown mustard seed
- 1/4 teaspoon coriander seed
- 1/4 teaspoon dill seed
First, make your brine by combining the vinegar, water, salt and sugar and bring it to a boil.
Prepare two pint jars, and place the spices inside. Tightly pack in the scapes. (We found it easiest to trim the scapes to fit, and to pack them in vertically. Some people prefer to coil them in, around the edge of the jar.)
Pour the hot brine into the jars slowly, making sure to leave about 1/2 inch of head space. Get rid of any air bubbles, wipe the rims and then seal them.
Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes (or adjust for elevation). For the best, most garlicky-pickly taste, let these cure for at least a month to six weeks. Once you open them up, you can keep them in the refrigerator for several weeks.