If you plant your garlic bulbs in mid-October, in mid-July, as sure as the sun rises in the east, each plant sends up a dramatic flower shoot, called a scape, right out of the center of the plant. The scape shoot makes a spiral, and its white flower head looks for all the world like a bird’s head with a long green bill. I always cut scapes off, because if I allow them to bloom, the bulbs below the ground don’t develop as I want them to.
The scapes make a marvelous accent in a flower arrangement and you can eat them. I use them in any dish where I would use a clove of garlic: chopped up in stir-fries, stuffed into the center of a roast chicken, with roasted potatoes or in risotto. I take off the green bill because it is too fibrous. I chop up the white flower bud and then, to find where the tender part of the scape begins, I bounce a knife on the stalk from bottom to top until it cuts through, and I discard the tough, woody part, then chop or mince the tender part.
For a short while each summer, scapes appear at farmers markets and fresh vegetable stands. If, however, you grow a year’s supply of garlic as I do, then you might find yourself with a hundred scapes and even diligent daily use won’t suffice to work through the supply.
This year, garlic scape pesto looked like the answer to my scape abundance problem.
There are a ton of recipes for it, and I was pleased to learn that you don’t necessarily need nuts to make pesto: pumpkin seeds work well and are ideal for pesto if there is a tree nut allergy in your family. Otherwise, walnuts, pine nuts, cashews and even almonds will work.
By the way, while most of us think of basil when we make pesto, you can actually make a form of pesto from other ingredients, including sun-dried tomatoes and parsley and other herbs. Some of the garlic scape recipes I looked at called for basil or parsley in addition to the scapes.
Of course, after you have made a bucket full of garlic scape pesto, then you have to figure out how to use it. You can freeze some. You can add it to soup, salad dressing, potato or pasta salads, spread it on chicken you will bake or stir it into hot pasta. Mix it into goat or cream cheese for a spread on crackers. Spread some on crostini before you add the tomato mix. Anywhere you need a garlicky flavor boost, the pesto will come to the rescue.
Garlic Scape Pesto
Makes a 1½ cups of pesto
10 garlic scapes, chopped
⅓ to ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
⅓ cup walnut pieces
½ cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup basil or parsley (optional)
Put the chopped scapes, ⅓-cup of the cheese, nuts and half of the olive oil plus optional herbs into the bowl of a food processor. Process until everything is finely chopped, then add the rest of the oil and Parmesan and process until you have your desired consistency, smoother or coarser to taste. Add more oil if you prefer looser pesto. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate.
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