Garlic scapes are the cool kids at the farmers market in between late spring and early summer. Those alien-like spiral tendrils are part of the culinary in crowd. I finger their weird shapes in perplexity when they make their brief celebrity appearance at the market stalls—what do you exactly do with garlic scapes? And why does everyone love them?
I bought around ten scapes recently. I brought them home, placed them on the counter, and I stared at them while I ate the more approachable items from the market. In a moment of boredom I bit into a raw garlic scape. Despite proving that they did in fact live up to the garlic part of their name, I would not recommend that approach to testing the flavor.
Worst. Garlic. Breath. Ever.
I lost hope for the scapes then. I stuck them in the crisper having heard they kept a long time. A kind of dare, because if the scapes stayed, I could probably make something out of them. If not, I’d be out ten scapes. No big deal.
Yesterday in the 4th of July long weekend laziness I craved potato salad but not the mayo kind. Purple fingerling potatoes caught my eye in the grocery store. Pesto potato salad with thinly sliced fingerlings I thought, nothing more.
I remembered the scapes too. Hadn’t I been told they are best in pesto? The scapes were still green and crisp despite my lack of effort. I cut the tendrils thinly, added walnuts, olive oil, basil, and salt and pepper to the food processor bowl. I kept the Parmesan out as freezing pesto is better without the cheese in my experience.
I boiled around two pounds of tiny fingerling potatoes, tossed with a heaping spoonful of garlic scape pesto, and a little more salt and pepper. Overnight in the fridge the potato salad mixed for that perfect cold potato salad taste. I ate it for lunch on top of a mix of greens—a green colored lunch but full of flavor.
The verdict on scapes, then? Surprisingly, I think I get their cult following in pesto form. While the pesto was garlicky, I think scapes have a less edgy garlic taste than a few cloves of raw garlic. Sometimes I make a pesto just with 1 clove of raw garlic but it is too much. Cutting the flavor of the scapes with basil made them mellower but still pleasantly garlicky. I’m definitely freezing some of this pesto to use in other dishes—pasta, risotto, maybe pizza?
Garlic Scape Pesto
Makes around 1 cup
3/4 cup of washed and sliced scapes (about 10 scapes)
3 tablespoons walnuts, toasted or not.
1/2 (or more) cup olive oil
1 1/2 cup loosely packed+ torn basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1. Pulse the sliced scapes in the food processor first until minced.
2. Add in the rest of the ingredients except the cheese. Pulse until mixed. Add in extra olive oil to achieve the right consistency.
3. If you are using all of the pesto now, mix in the cheese. If you aren’t into cheese, leave it out. The pesto, believe it or not, works without cheese. If you plan to freeze some of the pesto only add cheese for the portion you are using as pesto freezes better without cheese.