Making Pesto from Garlic Scapes, Plus Six Other Uses for the Green Top of the Garlic Plant.

  • The raw pine nuts give the pesto a pleasant sweetness and nutty flavor.  
  • Lessening the likelihood of bitterness in the pesto by stirring in the olive oil rather than blending it in.

The bright green tangles of garlic scapes first appear at farmer's markets in the early summer. When hardneck garlic bulbs are harvested, the long stems that emerge from the top are the unopened flower stems. Those stems get chopped off so that the garlic bulbs below ground can produce lots of healthy cloves. Scapes that are allowed to grow unchecked cause the plants to put their resources into flower production, resulting in bulbs that are smaller and less flavorful.  

Scapes can be used in both raw and cooked dishes, and their flavor is milder and less overpowering than that of raw garlic cloves. Make a pesto with raw scapes, pine nuts, fresh lemon juice and zest, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, basil, and extra-virgin olive oil to bring out their mild garlicky flavor. I like the nutty, round flavor that the raw pine nuts give this pesto. Instead of using a mortar and pestle, I use the food processor to finely mince the crunchy scapes. Once the rest of the ingredients are incorporated, you’re left with a zingy, bright green pesto that has a lot of versatility, which can be used anywhere a traditional Genovese pesto might be used: you can toss it with pasta, combine it with cooked white beans, mix it in chicken salad and spread it on sandwiches or serve it as a condiment with roasted meats and vegetables.  

Amanda Suarez's Serious Eats

The pesto recipe is only one possible application of garlic scapes. Infusing a dish with depth, complexity, funk, and freshness, garlic scapes are an allium with an herbal accent, like scallions and chives. For those who want to use garlic scapes for something other than pesto, here are six suggestions.

  • Since scapes are so pungent with garlic, they can and should be used in place of garlic cloves in any recipe that calls for them. To begin, I suggest using twice as many scapes as cloves. It's important to remember that cooking scapes dulls their flavor, so if you prefer a stronger punch, you may want to use more.  
  • Use of Scapes in Cooked and Raw Forms Scapes are useful as a vegetable whether they are cooked or eaten raw. Before using garlic scapes in any dish, it's best to check for and remove any woody, fibrous parts from the base of the stem and the area right above the closed bud. However, blanching the scapes first is recommended if you want to remove any hint of woodiness. Then you can cut them into whatever shape you like, from rounds for salads to green bean-like lengths for stir-fries.  
  • To make grilled garlic scapes, I simply toss them in olive oil, salt, and pepper before placing them on a hot grill. Charring scapes brings out a sweet and slightly spicy flavor, similar to that of roasted garlic. They are a simple side dish that can be thrown together in no time, and go well with grilled chicken, pork chops, or burgers, especially when finished with a splash of olive oil and lemon juice.  
Put those garlic scapes to good use by incorporating their mild flavor and vibrant green color into some hummus! Blanched garlic scapes are a great substitute for whole garlic cloves, but if you really want to amp up the garlic flavor, feel free to use both! Thinly sliced scapes, when sautéed in olive oil, add an extra dimension of flavor to garlic dishes. Recipe for Garlic Scape Compound Butter The scapes in this take on the traditional beurre maître d'hôtel lend a subtle garlicky flavor without the bite of raw garlic. To make the butter, soften the butter, then finely mince the scapes, along with some parsley, lemon juice, and salt, and mash everything together. It can be used in a variety of ways, including as a dip for bread, a flavorful addition to a bowl of steaming soup, or as a finishing touch for grilled or steamed fish and meat.   Finally, you can make a delicious soup out of garlic scapes. The base of this light and flavorful soup is leeks and garlic scapes that have been sweated in butter before being combined with vegetable stock (or water) and a Yukon Gold potato. The final step is to add the fresh herbs mint and parsley and blend everything together. The vibrant green soup can be served either hot or cold.  

Garlic scapes have an impressively long shelf life in the fridge, up to three weeks if stored in a slightly opened plastic bag. As a result, you'll have plenty of time to experiment with the various methods of preparing garlic scapes.

Carolyn Cope is responsible for the original version of this article. Since then, Kristina Razon has given it a thorough revision and update.

  • 5 garlic scapes and roughly chopped (to yield about 70g) after the woody ends have been removed and the scapes have been cleaned.

  • 1/4 cup (35g) pine nuts

  • 1 tablespoon new (15ml) juice from a lemon with the addition of the grated zest of one lemon (one teaspoon's worth).

  • Salinity of Kosher Salt

  • 1/4 cup (20g) a generous amount of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

  • 1 1/2 ounces (45g) basil wet leaves (from a bunch weighing about 3 ounces/85 grams)

  • 1/2 cup (120ml) superior quality olive oil

  • Pure, freshly-ground black pepper

  1. Combine scapes, pine nuts, lemon juice and zest, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Scrape down the sides of the processor with a flexible spatula about halfway through the processing time to ensure that the scapes and nuts are broken down into small pieces. Toss in the cheese and blend for 30 seconds. Pulse the basil for ten one-second bursts until it is finely chopped.  

    Amanda Suarez's Serious Eats

  2. Place scape mixture in a bowl on a medium scale. Slowly add olive oil to the scape mixture in a thin stream while stirring constantly. Amount of salt and pepper to taste

    By Amanda Suarez, author of "Serious Eats"

  3. Pesto can be used immediately, or it can be transferred to a jar or container, coated with a thin layer of olive oil, and sealed for later use.

    A Amanda Suarez's Serious Eats

Appliance for processing food

An airtight container will preserve garlic scape pesto in the fridge for up to 5 days.

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