Monday, June 14, 2010

Garlic Scapes - use them before they are gone

My sister left me a message on my cell over the weekend, "I know you are in New York, but can you remind me how to make garlic scape pesto?". I happened to take this photo of a bunch of garlic scapes last weekend at the opening of the CitySeed Farmers' Market near my house, and had been meaning to write about it so here goes....

Garlic Scapes are the part of the garlic plant that grows above the ground. Just before the tip starts to sprout into a seed, it is clipped off to let the garlic bulb mature underground before it is harvested and then dried a little later in the season. Garlic scapes are only available for a few weeks in June. The hot weather this year brought them to market a little earlier than normal. You can chop up the scapes and use them in place of garlic or onions in most recipes. A very popular thing to do with them is to make pesto. A few years back when I was working with Yale Dinning Services and the Yale Sustainable Food Project, I was given a huge garbage bag full of garlic scapes from a local garlic farm to use to test recipes with. I chopped, pureed measured, blanched, and froze these buggers to see what the easiest and tastiest thing would be to do with them. I determined that chopping them up a bit, tossing them in a food processor with some olive oil and a touch of salt and grinding them until they were smooth, got us a great garlicy base for just about anything. we could add some arugula and romano cheese to make a great pesto, and even some walnuts. Or sauté the scape puree as a base for a soup, a stir fry, or a frittata. To keep the garlic scapes over time, I froze them which worked really well (check out this recipe for Roasted Tofu with Garlic Scapes I made over the winter when I stumbled upon a bag of the scape puree in my freezer). You could also play with canning the puree if you like.

Garlic Scape Puree
1/2 pound Garlic Scapes
1/2 cup olive oil (or just enough to make the scapes blend)
1 teaspoon salt (optional)

Rinse and dry garlic scapes.
Roughly chop scapes into 1 inch sections.  If the "flowery" top is brownish or tough, you can remove it.
Put scapes into food processor and blend with salt and some of the oil. Add more oil as needed to help the garlic scapes puree.

You  can freeze this Garlic Scape Puree or keep it in the fridge for a few weeks. Use it like you would onions or garlic in any recipe. 

To make a pesto:
Add a bunch or two of arugula, basil or spinach, a cup of grated romano or parmesean cheese and if you'd like, some nuts such as walnuts or pine nuts. For a non-dairy pesto, try adding some miso instead of grated cheese.

You can mix this all to taste, adding more or less of anything you want until it tastes good to you. Toss this on pasta, spread it on a sandwich or anything else you like!


  1. I love these things! I saute with some salt, paprika, olive oil, and cumin. I put some olive oil and maldon salt on them and throw them right on the grill then cut them up over some mizuna greens, or any other salad green. I make a corn & chorizo hash thingy with seared scallops and threw them in there as well. I just love the mild, sweet flavor without being too overpowerinlgy garlicky. I think the pesto idea is perfect, since I always seem to come home with WAY too many scapes, and not everyone in my house is as obsessed with them as I am! Thanks.


  2. Sabrina, your ideas sound great! love the corn and chorizo hash idea! I made a great frittata with these last week, just sauteed them in a little butter, added some fresh thyme and eggs. I know what you mean about people not always loving them in big pieces like it sounds like you and I do. thanks for reading! T

  3. I planted garlic for the first time in the fall and it's been doing great, but I kept wondering how garlic scapes fit into the whole picture, until I took a closer look at the plants last week and there were the scapes! Very exciting. I have been snipping them up and sauteing them in butter with some brand new pea shoots and then tossing them with pasta and parmesan. I'm going to try the pesto though, because I don't want to waste any of them.

  4. so great! I actually haven't grown garlic myself. my sister is really into it and always gives us these beautiful purple striped heads. It must be so satisfying to use oes you've grown yourself. how exciting! Sarah, I can't seem to figure out how to reply directly to you, so hope you check back and read this. thanks for reading my blog! T