Fresh garlic scapes, basil and parsley combine to make an herby, fragrant pesto in this easy Garlic Scape Pesto recipe.
Garlic is a root. It grows underground, developing a papery exterior that covers the bulb. But above ground, garlic has many lives … and they’re edible.
When garlic grows, first it sends up greens (sometimes called garlic greens). These can be chopped up and mixed into dips, sauteed with veggies or meat or used in other applications where garlic flavor would be appreciated.
Then the curly garlic scapes shoot up. These are the bud, which would flower if left to continue growing. But because the most common garlic is the bulb, garlic is cultivated to encourage its growth. Garlic scapes are cut off so that the head under the soil will grow more and develop properly.
That’s not to say that cutting the garlic scapes is bad. In fact, I’d say it’s pretty good because that you can cook with them to wonderful results. Garlic scapes are delightful. With the flavor of garlic without the sharp bite of raw garlic, garlic scapes can be used in place of garlic in vinaigrettes, dip, risotto, carbonara and more.
These particular garlic scapes I bought from the fine women at Wise Acre Farms in Kenduskeag, Maine. They grow and sell a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and have evern introduced me to several I didn’t know about (lovage, for instance).
But garlic scapes isn’t one of the things they’ve introduced me to. In fact, I’ve been cooking with garlic scapes for so long that I can’t remember where or when I first heard about them. But when I did — probably a decade ago — it was difficult to locate them. Many farmers in Connecticut, where I lived at the time, would cut the scapes and toss them in the compost heap. That’s changed in recent years though, as more and more people realize how tasty and versatile they are. These days, you can often find them at farmers markets and farm stands.
In this Garlic Scape Pesto recipe, the garlic scapes add the suggestion of garlic without overpowering the herbs that accompany it. It’s subtle and nuanced and glorious.
And while you could make this in a mortar and pestle (provided that you chop everything well before adding it to the bowl), I prefer to make this in the food processor. It’s just so quick and easy, and it limits the amount of hands-on prep time it takes to actually make the pesto.
Into the food processor, you combine garlic scapes (I cut them into one-inch pieces), fresh basil leaves, fresh parsley leaves, walnuts, parmesan cheese and a little salt. Whirl that all together until it becomes a uniform consistency (it will be chunky, but aim for small chunks). Then with the food processor running on low, drizzle in the olive oil in a steady stream until it’s fully combined. Taste it, and season with additional salt as desired.
This pesto is thick. If you’d like a looser version, add more olive oil. But I like it as is. The resulting pesto sauce is herbaceous and lovely.
I love to serve this Garlic Scape Pesto tossed with pasta. But it’s also delicious spread on fresh bread and topped with mozzarella and tomato. You could also spread it on rolls for your burgers or grilled chicken sandwiches. Or spread some on fish before you cook it. Or swirl it into mashed potatoes. Or toss it with roasted potatoes.
The possibilities for using it are really endless.
Garlic Scape Pesto is the kind of recipe that really shines when using fresh, local produce. Not only are the garlic scapes from a local farm, but so are the basil and parsley leaves. And using ones grown close to home and harvested not long before cooking means that they have more bright, fresh flavor then their counterparts harvested weeks before purchasing in a grocery store.
Eating local matters. It matters not just for better flavor (seriously, you cannot beat the flavor of something harvested at its peak and eaten soon after) but also for the local food economy, our health and our world. If you aren’t shopping your local farms and farmers markets, try it this summer.
There’s a whole world of vegetables waiting in a variety of colors, flavors and textures — a rainbow far greater than you’ll find in the homogenized produce aisles of the grocery store. And you might just find that the purple pepper, black tomato or yellow carrot is the best thing you’ve ever tasted.
- 1/2 cup chopped garlic scapes
- 1 cup basil leaves
- 1 cup parsley leaves
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt, , or more to taste
- 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Coming the garlic scapes, basil, parsley, walnuts, parmesan cheese and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process on low speed until uniformly chopped. While the food processor is running, drizzle the olive oil in a thin stream down the shoot until all has been added.
- Taste and add additional salt as desired.
- Spoon pesto onto hot, cooked pasta and stir until combined. Alternatively, this can be used as a spread on bread (for sandwiches, with fresh mozzarella or just eating).
- Store in an airtight container for up to a week.