Garlic is one of the oldest documented herbs in history.
It was prescribed in ancient medical texts from Egypt, Greece, Rome, China and India, for the treatment of diseases and maintenance of good health. Well preserved garlic cloves were found in the tomb of King Tutankhamen and in ancient Greek temples.
A member of the Allium family, garlic is a close relative of onions, shallots, leeks and chives.
Most of us know and use garlic for its cloves.
However, have you tasted green garlic or garlic scapes?
Green garlic is a young garlic, which grows early in the season. It has tender green leaves and a tiny white clove at the bottom. The flavour of green garlic is very mild and considerably less spicy than regular garlic cloves.
By appearance it resembles a scallion. You may harvest the entire plant, then either chop it up to eat fresh in salads, topped over vegetables or sautéed. Alternatively, you may clip a few outer leaves, but leave the centre intact. Use these stems as you would scallions.
A garlic scape is a tall central stalk that emerges from the centre of the garlic leaves. As it grows, it curls. This is the flower bud of the garlic. If left on the plant, it will produce a cluster of tiny bulbils. These are essentially tiny bulbs, which may be planted to produce full size garlic bulbs in two to three years time. By removing the scape, the plant’s energy will redirect itself towards producing a larger garlic bulb.
What many people don’t know is how delicious garlic scapes are! They have a milder garlic flavour, than garlic cloves and may be used in their place in recipes. Harvest your scapes when they have curled once or twice.
At this stage, they will have a crispy texture, similar to asparagus. When harvesting scapes, use your secateurs to clip the scape one inch above where it emerges from the garlic leaves. Once the scape begins to straighten, is has become woody and no longer palatable.
One of my favourite ways to use garlic scapes is in Garlic Scape Pesto. Not only does scape pesto taste wonderful over pasta, it is also delicious over warm eggs, on barbecued chicken breast, steak, spread over little toasts and added to sandwiches.
It is very easy to make and stores well in the refrigerator for one to two weeks. It may also be frozen for several months. Be sure to top the pesto with a layer of olive oil, when storing.
After removing spoonfuls from your jar, even out the top of the pesto with a spoon and top it up with olive oil. The olive oil will help to preserve the pesto’s freshness.
I recommend making one serving at a time, tasting and making adjustments along the way. If you want a stronger garlic flavour, add more scapes.
If you plan on eating it raw, use fewer scapes. Add extra olive oil, if you find the pesto to be a little dry. It is delicious eaten raw or cooked.
How to Make Garlic Scape Pesto
- 7 large garlic scapes, chopped into 2 to 3 pieces each
- 1/3 cup raw pistachios, unsalted
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup olive oil (or more to adjust when processing)
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- Puree the first three ingredients in a food processor or blender, until finely chopped.
- Add olive oil and continue to puree until smooth; if extra olive oil is needed, add it now.
- Season with salt & pepper.
If you plan to store your garlic scape pesto in the fridge, use small glass jars. Otherwise, freeze the rest in freezer safe containers.
If you liked this recipe, check out my recipe for Garlic Scape Butter.
Enjoy and happy gardening!
Here are the tools that I mentioned in the post.