We had the best gift waiting for us when we got back from our vacation: the garlic scapes were ready!
If you don’t know, if you’ve somehow missed the discussions and articles by gardeners or foodies the world over, 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 situation for all involved. Scapes have a slightly milder taste than normal garlic, and a nice crisp texture. They can be used just like garlic, or grilled whole or chopped up and added fresh to salads, soups, pizzas, dips, etc. There’s just so much you can do with them, and they are so good.
They are also fleeting. Utterly ephemeral.
June is scape season, and it only lasts a week or two at most. They’re best to harvest while small and tender. Wait too long and they get tough and woody. Wait even longer than that and, well, they become flowers. 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.
We didn’t get quite as many scapes as we did last year, mostly because back then the garlic had basically been growing wild for a few years. They produced a lot of plants, but not very good bulbs. So last October we dug up and replanted the best looking cloves, about 200 of them, to get a better harvest. Even so, it was more than enough to make and freeze 8 pints of garlic scape and basil pesto.
I usually use all my garlic scapes to make pesto with. It is delicious, with just a touch more bite to it than traditional pesto. And I then use it at least weekly in all sorts of ways, namely on pizza, with pasta, and in homemade tomato soup. But this year I wanted to try some different recipes (like this and this and this) with the scapes, so I kept back about half of them. Then, because I’m not going to do all that cooking right away, I chopped the scapes into 1/2 inch pieces, steam blanched them, and froze them. I ended up with a 1/2 gallon bag full, and I’m excited to have them to use throughout the year!
GARLIC SCAPE PESTO WITH BASIL
- 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, 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.