If you’re like I was a few weeks ago, you’re probably wondering what the heck a garlic scape is. Not once in my forty plus years had I heard mention of this thing called a scape. When someone told me the garlic scapes in my kids’ school garden had to be cut, after a minute of staring blankly (and feeling stupid), I had to ask, “What’s a garlic scape?” The simple answer is that the scape is the flower stalk that grows out of the center of the bulb. In the case of garlic, cutting it allows the bulb to grow bigger. It’s edible, has a mild garlic flavor, and is really lovely to cook with.
I’m pretty new to vegetable gardening, and, while I have planted my fair share of flowers and herbs over the years, garlic is an exotic animal to me. When it came time for the garlic scapes to be cut, I had to ask another Mom five times to describe it to me, so I didn’t cut the wrong thing. I was about to suggest we facetime while I’m in the garden but decided to rein myself in and leave the poor woman alone. I’m usually a try-it-and-find-out gardener, but I figured since the garden belonged to lots of little kids, and not me, I should probably do a little research before I channel Edward Scissorhands.
Even though I had looked at numerous images of the scape online, I was nervous when I cut the first one. Images of tearful children telling me I had murdered their garlic kept popping into my mind. But after the first few, I got into the swing of things. And after the thirtieth scape, my thumb and index finger were aching and lamenting that I had ever learned what a scape was. But I had a large pile of scapes gathered. So now what?
I found a Bon Appetit article online giving me ten great ideas. While the ideas were all good, the one that appealed to me most was making pesto. I love pesto, but pesto and I have a checkered past. Pesto was my best friend the summer I lived in Italy as a broke student. Later, when I was pregnant with my son, and struggling with morning sickness, pesto left me out to dry. After that, even a chance encounter left me feeling disappointed and nauseated.
It took me several years, but I eventually decided to reconcile with pesto. Since then, I have been timid in our encounters. But the garlic scapes offered me an opportunity to really dig in and recommit. I was excited by the thought of rekindling my love, so I made four batches with the garlic scapes, all slightly different, and froze enough pesto to get me through the winter. The recipe below was my favorite.
Garlic Scape Pesto Recipe
- 1 cup garlic scapes (If you don’t grow garlic, you can buy them at farmers’ markets or a specialty store. I recently saw them at Whole Foods. Depending on where you live, look for them in early summer. I just cut them last week.)
- 1 1/2 cup basil
- 1 1/2 cup spinach
- 1 cup Pecorino Romano shredded
- 1/4 cup pine nuts (toasted)
- 1 cup walnuts (toasted)
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
- cut top (“flower”) off of garlic scape and discard
- cut garlic scapes into 2-inch pieces
- process garlic scapes in a food processor
- add basil and spinach and lightly process
- add Pecorino, pine nuts, walnuts and lightly process
- add lemon juice and olive oil and process until desired consistency
- enjoy on white fish, baguette, crackers, eggs, your finger!