Friday, June 19, 2015

What Are Garlic Scapes?

Garlic Scapes are the 'flower stalks' of hardneck garlic plants. They are both edible and delicious, with a mild garlic flavor and a slight sweetness. If you grow your own garlic, these stalks start to appear a month or so after the first leaves. The scapes are more tender if you harvest them before they begin to curl. They get more fibrous and tough the longer they grow.
If I am on top of things, I tend to cut mine as they are starting their first circle. If left on, they will continue to curl and eventually open a flower head then form small 'bulbils' that can be planted to grow more garlic... but it will take 2-3 years for them to form large bulbs. Leaving the scapes on the plant diverts the plants strength away from bulb production, reducing the size of the garlic cloves. 
If you harvest scapes young and tender, you can chop them into salads or use them as a topping like scallions. More mature scapes can be sauteed lightly and used with pasta, eggs, pickled or used in pretty much any dish that would be complemented with garlic. My favorite way to use them is in 'Garlic Scape Pesto', recipe below. The pesto can be frozen in ice-cube trays before storing in freezer bags. (I freeze my pesto in snack size baggies, 1/4 cup in each bag. Freeze the baggies of pesto flat on a bake sheet then pack into a larger freezer bag. Of course the bag is marked as 'Garlic Scape Pesto' with the date it was made!) Throughout the winter, pop a frozen garlic scape pesto cube into your soups, salad dressings, omelets, rice, sandwich spreads, dips, sauces or simply tossed with pasta.

Even if you don't grow your own garlic, you may still be able to find them at your local Farmer's Market. Fresh garlic scapes are available from June to early July. The window is short, so keep your eyes peeled or you might miss them. If you scoop more than you can use, freeze them for later... or make more pesto!

GARLIC SCAPE PESTO        Yield: about 3-1/2 cups 
Although this pesto is good freshly made, it is even better when refrigerated for several hours or overnight.
2 cups coarsely chopped garlic scapes, *see preparation below

1 cup pine nuts, walnuts or sunflower seeds
3 Tbsp.  lemon juice, more if preferred
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1⁄2 tsp. salt or to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
More oil, lemon juice or water as needed to puree

*To prepare the scapes - snip the flowering tip off,  rinse scapes in cold water before chopping, then roughly chop into half-inch pieces.
Place garlic scapes, pine nuts and lemon juice into a food processor and puree (smooth or coarse as desired), scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula. With the machine running, slowly add olive oil and process until thoroughly incorporated, about 15 seconds. Then add the Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper, and blend for another 5 seconds. Add additional liquid 1 Tbsp. at a time to thin to preferred consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning. Scrape into a glass bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.
Will keep for one week refrigerated or freeze in air-tight containers for up three months.

Till next week, Happy Gardening and Bon App├ętit!

Photos by Sally Rae 

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