An Ode to the Garlic Scape + A Recipe for Scape Pesto

Garlic scapes. Photo credit: Zachary D Lyons.

Garlic scapes. Photo credit: Zachary D Lyons.

SFMA's Kim O'Donnel here, getting personal about the garlic scape. Five years ago, I wrote (not for the first time) about the curlicued shoot of hard-neck garlic that is IN SEASON RIGHT NOW (RUN, DON'T WALK).  I waxed philosophical and compared my relationship to the couple, Doris and George, in the the 1978 movie, Same Time Next Year. (Although married to other people, the couple has a romantic tryst the same weekend for 26 years.) An excerpt from my valentine:

As tantalized as I am by the lipstick-red sweetness of strawberries and the earthy wholesomeness of freshly dug-up asparagus,  I am completely smitten with the garlic scape, and tune out the rest of the produce world in mid-to-late June for private time with my pistachio-hued paramour. Although it slices like a scallion and adds a mildly garlic kick to salads, stir fries and omelets, the allure of the scape is its ability to be pureed and transformed into pesto.  Unlike basil pesto, its famous (and overrated) Italian cousin, garlic scape pesto is thicker — more like a spread –  and is so full-flavored that the traditional add-on of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is dare I say it, unnecessary.

If you've never had the pleasure, the garlic scape represents a particular growth stage in hard-necked garlic. As the garlic bulb grows and hardens underground, a green shoot pokes its head through the ground and curls in pig tail-like fashion before straightening. If left to its own devices, the scape hardens into what we know as the garlic stalk (or neck) and the bulb below never reaches its full potential.

This week, I made my first (double) batch of garlic scape pesto of 2015, and no doubt I will rinse, lather and repeat before scapes disappear into the produce horizon.  The pesto is stronger than I remember from years past. Should you find it too intense, add a small handful of mint or parsley leaves to mellow it a bit.  Home pizza makers: Spread some on your next batch of dough! 

So who's got the scape hookup? Talk to Growing Washington, Nash's Organic Produce, Alvarez Organic Farms and Kirsop Farm, to name just a few. Most farms that grow garlic are bringing scapes to market as well. 

Garlic Scape Pesto

1 cup garlic scapes (8 or 9 scapes), top flowery part removed, cut into 1⁄4-inch slices

1⁄3 cup walnuts

3⁄4cup olive oil

1⁄4to 1⁄2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1⁄2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Ground black pepper

Place the scapes and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and whiz until well combined and somewhat smooth. Slowly drizzle in the oil and process until integrated.

 With a rubber spatula, scoop the pesto out of the bowl and into a mixing bowl. Add Parmigiano- Reggiano and salt and pepper to taste.

 Keeps for up to one week in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Also freezes well; add the cheese after the pesto has thawed.

 Makes about 3⁄4 cup.

Recipe excerpted From The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook by Kim O'Donnel by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright 2010.