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In Markets Now: Garlic Scapes

Jordan Mulligan - Wednesday, June 26, 2013

If you've been to a Farmer's Market in the last little while, you're sure to have noticed garlic scapes on offer. Garlic scapes are the flowering stems of the garlic. The farmer trims them off so the plant's energy is directed into producing nice big and beautiful garlic bulbs. Here in central Ontario, that tends to happen in late June.

If you're like me, the only thing that was stopping you from grabbing a bag full of these curly, greens was wondering what on earth to do with them. Yes, garlic scapes are a bit of unknown territory for many of us. 

I decided to take the leap, so I picked up some garlic scapes from the Rowanwood Farms booth at the Baysville Farmer's Market last Friday. I immediately came home to scour the internet for some garlic scape inspiration. 

The most popular use for garlic scapes seems to be pesto. Garlic scape pesto can be used just about anywhere you would use a traditional basil pesto - on pizza, in bread or on garlic bread, stirred into mashed potatoes, added to salad dressings or stirred into pasta or risotto dishes. It packs a garlic punch though, so a little goes a long way. For that reason, this pesto is best frozen to be used throughout the year. Beyond just extending the short season, freezing mellows out the garlic.

Here's a great tip I found for freezing this pesto (or any pesto, for that matter):

Put your pesto into a freezer bag, seal then smooth it into a thin layer. Place on a baking sheet and freeze until solid. Then, when you want to use some, just break off a piece. Another similar option is to freeze it in ice cube trays. Once the pesto is frozen solid, you can just pop the cubes out of the tray and store them in freezer bags. (You might want to have special ice cube trays for this, so your regular ones don't absorb the garlic smell). 

Beyond pesto, other suggested used for garlic scapes are simple grilling or roasting them, or slicing and adding on top of pizza, into scrambled eggs or potato salad, or sauteing and adding to pasta sauce.

Are you a garlic scape lover? Hope you'll share your favourite ways to use them!

Here's the simple garlic scape pesto that I made this weekend, which you can easily double or triple, if you have a lot of scapes. To prepare your scapes, trim the tough cut end a bit and discard the flowery blossom end, which tends to be stringy.

Garlic Scape Pesto

5 garlic scapes, top flowery part removed, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup walnuts
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 - 2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the scapes and walnuts into a food processor and process until well combined and quite, but no completely smooth. Add the lemon juice and mix to combine. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, a bit at a time, until mixture is moist but not soupy (use only as much olive oil as you need.)

With a rubber spatula, scoop the pesto out of the bowl and into a mixing bowl. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and salt and pepper, to taste.

Transfer into a jar. Pour a thin layer of olive oil over the top. Keeps for up to one week in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 

Garlic Scape Pesto also freezes well. For freezing, you can omit adding the cheese for now and then add later, after the pesto has thawed and before using.

Makes about 3⁄4 cup.

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