Garlic Scapes

Most of us could probably identify a tomato plant growing in a garden. Can you identify a garlic plant? Seeing a garlic plant for the first time, I acknowledged that we are not accustomed to seeing the full growth of the plant. In grocery stores we are presented with this white, flakey, papery bulb without an indication of the green plant it once was.

Garlic, in the same family as onions, produces a large purple flower in the late spring. While this flower is pleasing to the eye, the taste buds win out and to develop a better garlic head, the emerging stalks are chopped off. Now the plant’s energy shifts to the garlic bulb buried underground. Rather than cast the stems aside, farmers chop them off and sell them as garlic scapes. These vibrant green, twisty curly q’s have a mild garlic fragrance and a mellow garlic flavor. They can be lightly cooked or enjoyed raw. In most recipes, scapes can be used in place of garlic cloves. Add them to a saute pan of warmed olive oil to impart garlic flavor to the dish. Sometimes I use them like chives or scallions and chop them and sprinkle them over rice, salads (veggie, rice or chicken) or made into a lovely pesto.

Use this pesto recipe to add to pasta, bread, sugar snap peas, scallops or whatever your heart desires.

Garlic Scape and Almond Pesto

  • 10 garlic scapes, finely chopped, thick bottoms and wilted tops removed
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan (to taste and texture)
  • 1/3 cup almonds (you could toast them lightly, if you'd like, allow them to cool before adding)
  • About 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Sea salt
  1. Put the scapes, cheese, almonds and half the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor or blender. 
  2. Blend all the ingredients and then add the remainder of the oil and, if you want, more cheese. If you like the texture, stop; if you'd like it a little thinner, add some more oil. Season with salt.
  3. If you're not going to use the pesto immediately, press a piece of plastic against the surface to keep it vibrant green. The pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days or packed airtight and frozen for a couple of months. Makes about 1 cup.
Originally published in the West Hartford Fleet Feet newsletter, "The Extra Mile" (June 19, 2012, Issue #106)

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