Garlic scapes were a mystery ingredient to me a couple of years ago when I first spotted them at a farmer’s market. Green, somewhat curled, they appeared to have a flower pod on the end.
It is a flower bud. Scapes are the green tops of garlic plants, which are removed in June to grow a more robust garlic plant. The flavor is milder than garlic, but you use a whole bunch so be careful.
There are quite a few ways to cook with garlic scapes. My personal favorite is to make a pesto or chimichurri sauce with it.
For the pesto, I follow a traditional pesto recipe, substituting a bunch of scapes for the requested garlic. You will need to chop your scapes into about 1-inch or 2-inch pieces in order for the food processor to handle them. I haven’t tried mashing this with a traditional mortar and pestle, and don’t recommend it.
Some scapes are fairly soft throughout the cutting. Others get woody toward the end closest to where it was cut. Stop chopping and discard into the compost bin once you get to the tough part.
My general recipe for pesto is:
4-6 cups of basil leaves, stems removed
1/4 cup parsley, stems removed
2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, cut into smaller pieces for the food processor
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (although you can use sunflower seeds or toasted walnuts). I prefer the taste of pine nuts because that is what I was taught.
Generous pinch (or more) of kosher salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (this is a raw sauce, so use the best EVOO you can get) – plus more for topping the sauce off
Combine basil, parsley, garlic, cheese, pine nuts, salt, and 1/4 cup of the olive oil in the food processor. Pulse until all are chopped. With the processor running, add remaining olive oil.
If you are not using immediately, scrape into a glass jar. Cover with olive oil (prevents the pesto from becoming black by sealing out the air). Cover with a lid and refrigerate.
For a variation on the pesto, try swapping out 1/2 or more of the basil with kale or arugula.
USES: Use it to top pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking water to thin it out once it is on the pasta. Rub it all over and under the skin of a chicken and grill or roast the chicken. Add a couple of tablespoons it to cream cheese and use it as a filling for chicken breasts. Mix a couple of tablespoons with a stick of butter and spread on a cut loaf of bread make a divine garlic bread.
You can also pickle scapes – although this is not something I have tried. You can check out Serious Eats for the recipe.
I haven’t tried it because I usually don’t have enough left to pickle.
Use the scapes to make a quiche. This recipe includes ham, but you can omit it, substitute bacon. Or, for a purely veggie quiche, add some sautéed leeks and chard. This recipe is from The Artful Gardener.
Buy some pizza dough, if you aren’t into making your own, and try this combo of brie and scapes.
Your own variations can include alfredo sauce, red peppers, feta cheese, and scapes. I’d throw in some hot pickled peppers, too.
Chimichurri sauce is traditionally served with grilled steaks. I like the zestful combo of the garlic scape, herbs, lemon juice, vinegar, and olive oil – and think you can serve it with chicken, a meaty piece of fish (think swordfish or halibut), or a mixed veggie grill that includes eggplant, Portobello mushrooms, and zucchini.
Chimichurri can be made a number of ways – such as with and without cilantro, or with and without red pepper flakes or jalapeno. The basic premise is parsley and other herbs, lemon, vinegar, garlic, and olive oil (plus salt and pepper).
Personally, I like the cilantro and jalapeno. If you don’t, then skip them.
The recipe follows.
Go Fourth and enjoy some garlic scapes!