The other day, we saw garlic scapes in Oasis for the first time. They’re not very common in supermarkets, but they do show up in farmer’s markets. The first time I had them, a friend’s mother had bought them at the Ithaca farmer’s market and cooked them up for us. It was so delicious, I devoured it with no manners whatsoever. I vaguely remember trying to cook them myself later on, and failing quite miserably at making them taste delicious.
My understanding is that garlic scapes are a flowering stem growing from the garlic bulb. Farmers harvest them during this time of year (June) to encourage the bulb to keep getting fatter before they harvest the bulb. They’re milder in taste than garlic cloves, but still very garlicky. They can be eaten like any stem-y green: stir-fried, grilled, etc.
Not trusting myself at cooking them again, I looked up some recipes. It seemed that garlic scape pesto was a pretty popular preparation, and I do love pesto, so we decided to go for that.
Garlic scape pesto can be prepared like most any pesto, except that instead of using a green + garlic, you can just use garlic scape, which embodies the combination already.
Cut off top and bottom portions of each scape. Cut just above the white bulbous area (the flower), because I found that the flower itself was actually still quite tender. Cut off enough of the bottom so that the scape you’re left with is tender (you can bend the scape and feel how tough it is).
In a food processor or with an immersion blender, whizz a couple handfuls of chopped up scape, a handful of nuts (traditionally pine nuts, but I like to use sunflower seeds), a generous glug of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
When the mixture has a paste-like consistency, stir in a handful of grated Parmesan. Correct seasoning and add more oil if needed.
Our pesto came out rather thick, far thicker than basil pesto. We might’ve gotten the proportions wrong (i.e., nut-to-scape ratio too high), or maybe we should’ve added a little water. That’s why our pesto looks so oily; we tried to thin it out with more oil, but the effort was in vain. I also think our scape bunch was rather tough. We stir-fried them a couple of times but could never get them to be tender. My jaw would ache after the meal. But they still tasted delicious, with a wonderful sweet garlicky flavour that just made me hunger for more.
We used the pesto to make a sandwich. I usually find that sandwiches have very little to recommend them, but this time I hit upon a combination which actually attracted me: veal bologna (also from Oasis), fresh basil leaves (from our very own basil), and garlic scape pesto on olive and rosemary bread (from Our Daily Bread, a local bakery). It was every bit as delicious as I hoped it would be.