Monday, June 25, 2012

Cooking with Garlic Scapes

Until this week I never knew such a thing as "garlic scapes" existed. How can that be, I wonder, as I count myself among the world's foremost garlic lovers? (Don't believe me? Check out how much garlic I use in homemade hummus!)

So you can imagine my surprise delight when I learned that garlic scapes would be part of our first CSA distribution this year. Thank goodness for Google- I quickly learned the basics and set to work making these little babies right at home in my kitchen. And at home they are!

First, a bit about this curly green miracle. Like all members of the Allium family, garlic bulbs grow underground. However, the "scape" is the shoot, from the bulb, which sticks up from the ground as the bulb forms and matures below the earth. If it's not cut, it becomes the hard stalk in the middle of a garlic bulb (if you buy your garlic in supermarkets you may not have seen this "neck" before, as they are cut from the bulb when packaged). If the scape is cut and harvested however, hold on to your horses because you're in for a treat. The scape provides a mild garlic flavor with a scallion-like texture that is lovely and versatile. Plus it packs quite an environmentally conscious punch: cutting the scape does no damage to the bulb, so you're getting two harvests from one plant. Love!

Do you want to try them yet?

Culinary approaches for the garlic scape are similar to that of garlic, with preparation similar to scallion. Cut the stalk small and saute in butter or olive oil for a delicious garnish, as shown below.

 This photo shows my garlic scape dressing (albeit just a little overcooked) for a grilled ham steak, served with sauteed turnip greens and turnip slices. The garlic flavor from the scapes was a perfect companion to the subtle flavor of the meat.
Once sauteed, garlic scapes can be added to risotto, fried rice, omletes, dips, cheeses (see below) and stir fries.

At the recommendation of the farmer who grew them, we decided to use scapes instead of basil in our favorite pesto recipe, and the result was Ohmigosh! So delish!

Garlic Scape Pesto

About 10 garlic scapes
1/4 cup pine nuts (walnuts are less expensive and can be substituted)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp lemon juice, if you prefer

The process:
Put all of your ingredients into a food processor and blend. Simple.

(If you plan to freeze your pesto, don't add the cheese until you're ready to serve it. Just omit the cheese, freeze the pesto in a freezer bag or container, and when you're ready to eat just thaw it and add the cheese.)

So easy, and so yummy. We served our scape pesto over roasted chicken with sauteed mushrooms.

And then I was on a roll, so I continued.

At the recommendation of Writes4Food, I made the Soup Addict's Homemade Herb Ricotta with garlic scapes instead of the recommended herbs. I don't typically care for ricotta, but I ate it on rice crackers with a vengeance this week. I also used this garlic scape ricotta in a manicotti dish, for which my husband was eternally grateful.

I have not pickled garlic scapes, nor will I do so this year. I'm too busy eating them fresh, you see. But I hear that you can blanche and freeze scapes just like you can a scallion for later use. (That method is blanche for 30 seconds, cool, and put into a ziplock bag- with as little air as possible- to freeze.) I can't imagine I'll have any left over, but you never know... maybe I'll give the pickling a try this winter when memory eludes me and I'm craving the fresh spring taste of these lovelies.

Other ideas I liked the sounds of but haven't yet tried?

The Boulder Foodie shared her "salsa fresca" recipe here.
Two Sisters Garlic offers many ideas, but I liked the look of the "garlic scape and white bean dip" recipe here.
Serious Eats shares her "7 ways to eat scapes" post, including instructions for grilling. Yum? I'm unnaturally excited about the scape compound butter recipe, and I can't wait to have the chance to try it out.
Saveur shares a recipe for "orzo risotto with forest mushrooms and garlic scapes" here. Because I'm gluten-free I'd keep the risotto to the plain old boring rice kind, but the rest of the dish sounds more than gourmet enough to make up for the slight.

In what ways do you use garlic scapes?


  1. Jupiter is just gnawing on the scapes I trimmed off the garlic plants this week. I have no cooking suggestions for them though.

    1. I haven't tried them raw- maybe I'm a little afraid! I can't shake the feeling that they might taste like raw garlic, although they must be more tender, more delicate??



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