If you’ve never heard of garlic scapes - the current darling of farmers’ markets and upscale restaurant menus - you’re not alone. I first encountered garlic scapes last summer, when I noticed my local farm stand was giving them away. Frankly, they didn’t immediately strike me as something that might be edible. They looked like they belonged in a Japanese flower arrangement, or maybe a Dr. Seuss book.
But hey, they were free! So I grabbed a few.
Turns out this curly, zany-looking vegetable tastes fantastic, with very little needed in the way of preparation.
So what are garlic scapes, exactly? They’re the green shoots that emerge from the garlic bulb, which grows underground. The scapes need to be cut off, or the plant will put all its energy into the stem, and the garlic bulb won’t develop properly.
Similar to the way green onions have a mellow onion flavor, garlic scapes lend a subtle garlicky presence to whatever you use them in. Some people chop them up and add them to a stir fry or an egg dish. I like to roast them in a pan with olive oil and salt - they get delectably brown and just a bit crunchy. I’ve also encountered a number of recipes for garlic scape pesto, which sounds great.
A friend who’s been gardening for forty years tells me she always used to cut off garlic scapes and throw them in the compost heap without a second thought. That is, until a couple of weeks ago, when she attended a barbecue where they were serving grilled scapes. After all these years, she’s finally realized how delectable they are and has stopped throwing them away.
Oh, and I’ve noticed the farm stand is charging money for them this year. From compost to trendy gourmet dish in one season: nice marketing job, if you ask me!
1 cup garlic scapes (about 8 or 9 scapes), top flowery part removed, cut into ¼-inch slices
1/3 cup walnuts
¾ cup olive oi
l ¼-1/2 cup grated parmigiano
½ teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
Place scapes and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and whiz until well combined and somewhat smooth. Slowly drizzle in oil and process until integrated. With a rubber spatula, scoop pesto out of bowl and into a mixing bowl. Add parmigiano to taste; add salt and pepper. Makes about 6 ounces of pesto. Keeps for up to one week in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
For ½ pound short pasta such as penne, add about 2 tablespoons of pesto to cooked pasta and stir until pasta is well coated.