Garlic scapes are a wonderfully whacky vegetable that make AMAZING pesto!
As a garlic plant grows, the bulb forms in the soil and the leaves are grown above. As the plant matures, it's basic instinct is to reproduce in one of two ways: form large bulbs with many cloves or grow a flower. Even thought it's not technically a true flower, the scape is the flowering part of the plant. It twists and curls as it reaches for the sky and is usually seen something near the beginning of July.
When I was growing my first garlic crop, the scapes were a bit of a surprise. I had no idea that they would grow, let alone be edible AND delicious! For that reason, I feel that scapes are the ultimate bonus crop every year. Here on our farm, our goal is to produce large bulbs that pack a punch of flavour to them. In order to achieve that, we pick the scapes off so that the plant can send it's energy back down into it's roots, thus forming the coveted giants below.
Scape season is often fast and furious, but let me assure you that we eat well during those weeks! One of the most challenging parts of growing in Alberta is how short our growing season is. We have roughly 90 days (if we're really lucky) between frost dates and because of that we are only able to harvest garlic once a year in the late summer or fall. If you do the math and estimate that each variety averages 4 - 6 months storage capabilities, that still leaves us with a potential of 6 months without fresh garlic. Garlic scapes are the next best thing and are available during the late spring and early summer! If you are committed to sourcing seasonal local ingredients, then garlic scapes are the garlic for you right now!
The curly stems can be somewhat intimidating at first, but I encourage you to be creative! Think pesto, pizza, garlic butter, etc! Or try simply try them grilled, the flavour mellows enough that they make the perfect side dish to your BBQ! Have fun with your cooking and see what you can come up with!
To start you off, here is a recipe for a garlic scape pesto, with a slight twist - it uses beet tops as the greens portion! If your garden is anything like mine, this is the time of year when beet tops are plentiful. I hate to waste anything, so I am trying to find new uses for the "throw aways" of the garden. Don't count this recipe out if you don't like the taste of beet greens! The ample amount of garlic scapes helps tone down their flavour! Serve this on new potatoes, steaks, or pasta. Yum!
Beet Top & Garlic Scape Pesto
2 cups beet greens
1/2 cup basil
1/2 cup garlic scapes, finely chopped or ground
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup pine nuts (can use almond slivers)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup - 3/4 cup oil
Add all ingredients, except for the oil to a food processor
Add oil slowly, starting with 1/2 cup and increasing it 1 tbsp at a time until desired consistency is reached
Pulse until smooth
You can adjust the garlic to your own preference. I'm a firm believer in there never being such a thing as "too much garlic". Go big or go home!
If you are looking to source local garlic scapes for your seasonal menus, please get in touch! You can order them by clicking here.