Abundance leads to ingenuity in the kitchen. Last fall, we planted several varieties of garlic en masse: Red Chesnok, Extra Hardy German, German Red, Music, Belarus, Georgia Fire, a Turkish variety, an Elephant variety and a couple of others. In June we’ve harvested several pounds of scapes!
We’ve stood them in vases where their curlicues are as charming as flowers. We’ve made them into pesto that we combined with pasta and rice, or into spreads with bases such as sour cream or Greek yogurt, or pureed white beans (my favorite). We’ve steamed them and roasted them, used them as aromatics and a side dish. We’ve even pickled them, and still have a drawer full of tangled raw stems.
Garlic scapes have a demanding harvest schedule. You need to pick them as soon as they’re ready, not for themselves but for the garlic bulbs below. (Scapes are the green stems of hardneck garlic that shoot up to form buds. It’s important to pick them before they flower so that the plant’s energy focuses on the prize, the garlic bulb that forms at the root.) Our garlic varieties matured type-by-type over a couple of weeks. Fortunately, to manage the abundance, garlic scapes keep well in the refrigerator, up to a month, and when made into pesto, for 6-12 months in the freezer.
Garlic Scape Pesto
Clean and trim 8-10 garlic scapes, removing the portion above the base of the bud. (While edible, that section is too fibrous for pesto, so use it in stock/broth of compost it.) Cut the stem into 2-inch lengths and drop them into a food processor. Add a little salt, a few blanched almonds (or other nuts of choice, or none) and a big glug of oil, and process the mixture until it reaches the consistency you desire. Add a little more oil if the mixture’s not breaking down.
Garlic Scape Spread or Dip
Add a few teaspoons of pesto to pureed white beans, Greek yogurt or sour cream. Season with salt to taste. Let sit for at least ½ hour before serving, unless you’re too hungry or too rushed.