Friday, July 17, 2015

The Great (E)Scape

by Sheila Connolly

A few weeks ago I bought a batch of garlic scapes at the farmers’ market in Northampton, where the vendor said they were the last of this year’s crop.

This past week I was in Vermont, which is north of Northampton, and was driving back by way of New Hampshire and stopped at an organic farm stand, and behold! More scapes!

Okay, by now you’re probably scratching your heads and saying, what is a garlic scape? It’s the stem and flower bud that emerges from the garlic head. Leave it alone on the plant and you’ll get garlic flowers, although your garlic heads will be smaller. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of them, much less seen them—I didn’t meet one until about ten years ago. Apparently they’ve been popular in Europe for a while, but took their time catching on here.

So, what to do with garlic scapes? They taste like garlic, no surprise, but a bit milder (your friends and loved ones will thank you!). You want young ones, because they tend to toughen up as they get older. I went hunting for recipes but found surprisingly few, and most are recent. But the one recipe most people suggest is Garlic-Scape Pesto.

Yes, they really do curl

Every recipe I found varied just a little, and this is a combination of them all. Don’t worry—pesto is very forgiving, so the precise proportions aren’t all that important. The result is a bit less garlicky than regular pesto, and will have a different texture. But it will taste good!

Garlic-Scape Pesto

1/4 lb coarsely chopped garlic scapes (trimmed of dried out or tough parts)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1-2 Tblsp freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice (one small lemon was enough)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt
Black pepper

Puree the scapes, olive oil, pine nuts and lemon juice in a food processor until nearly smooth (one vendor told me to make your scape pieces fairly small, say 1” long, because otherwise they can wrap themselves around the processor blade).

Stir in or pulse the cheese (don’t overblend).

Taste and add salt and pepper if you want. Note: it may taste salty on its own, but remember you’re spreading it over a lot of pasta.

Make your favorite pasta according to package instructions, then toss with the scape pesto and serve.

If you have extra, you can refrigerate or freeze it.

It’s a nice change from basil-based pesto (we eat plenty of that in this household!).

The next book in the Orchard Mysteries, A Gala Event, isn't coming out until October, but I figured you'd enjoy a cool snow scene in the middle of summer. And alpacas, which always make me laugh.

I'd be happy if you wanted to pre-order it at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.


  1. Thank you so much for the snow scene! I really like it. I am not a real fan of summer and I am looking forward to winter.

    1. I know what you mean. All my ancestors came from northern climes, so I'm not suited to hot summers at all. Of course, I didn't bargain for the ten feet of snow this past winter. Wonder what this year will be like?

  2. Yes, alpacas are always good for a smile.
    I've not run across scapes, but I do recall reading a reference to them somewhere.
    Thanks for updating my education.

    1. I think their season corresponds to strawberry season, so that's when you should look for them.

      I almost bought a small stuffed llama the other day (it could double as an alpaca), because it had such a delightfully sarcastic expression.

  3. I accidentally bought extra basil plants this year, so we're going to have a lot of pesto! I must try garlic scapes sometime. They sound wonderful!

  4. Thanks for another interesting and useful post, Sheila. We do have scapes in our markets around here and now I have an great idea about what to do with them.

    I am surprised you resisted that llama. Regrets, I've had a few.



    1. You've had llamas?
      Now that is a story to share!!!

    2. No, although I had a friend who was a llama, by name of Oscar. There are alpacas in the next Orchard book, based upon a conversation I had in the "real" town with a government employee who decided when she retired that she really wanted to raise llamas (I bought a pair of alpaca-wool socks from her). And later I ran into someone else from that town who manages llama treks in the area. Who knew?