I’ll confess that I didn’t know much about garlic scapes until a few years ago, when I started growing a lot of different varieties of hardneck garlic. For those who aren’t familiar with the growing habits of garlic, a month or so before the bulbs are ready for harvesting the hardneck varieties send up a flower shoot. A garlic scape is the flower stalk that coils out of the top of the garlic plant.
Conventional wisdom says it is best to remove the scape, so the garlic plant can direct all of its energy into making a big fat bulb, instead of trying to flower. But wise cooks don’t just throw those flower stalks away. They are a real culinary treat – a once a year harvest that is eagerly awaited by many (including me), much like the first spears of asparagus in spring.
Garlic scapes can be used in many different ways. They can be chopped up and added to any recipe where a garlicky flavor is desired. They can be grilled or sauteed by themselves for a side dish – cooking mellows the flavor considerably. But my favorite thing to do with garlic scapes is to make pesto.
This pesto is wonderful in pasta dishes, on flatbreads like pizza and foccacia, and on top of a slice of good, hearty bread. If you don’t grow garlic, the scapes can often be found this time of year at farmer’s markets. I can think of no substitutes – it just wouldn’t be Garlic Scape Pesto without the garlic scapes!