One of the most wonderful and fleeting delights of spring has arrived… garlic scapes!
For those who are not yet acquainted, garlic scapes are the flowering bud of hardneck varieties of garlic. They shoot up in the spring and are generally cut off to divert energy back into the bulb to give us larger cloves later in the season. The loopy scapes taste very much like a clove of garlic with the addition of the verdant green flavor of spring.
Several farmers at the Downtown Bloomington Farmers’ Market offer scapes for the few weeks they are popping up. For those readers who may be growing hardneck garlic at home, choose the right time to harvest your scapes. The longer they grow the more lovely they are to look at, but as they mature they can become hotter in flavor and develop fibrous stems that aren’t as easy to cook or eat. Younger scapes can be used raw, such as finely minced in a vinaigrette or sliced and used as garnish like scallions or chives. More mature scapes can be cooked to mellow their flavor. They can be used in any dish that could benefit from garlic flavor, such as sautéing them with the greens that are readily available this time of year. Garlic scapes can also be preserved and would yield great pickles plus a really flavorful brine that could be used to make a delicious salad dressing.
I have two must-make items during garlic scape season: Scape Pesto and Scape Chimichurri. Both store well in the refrigerator and the pesto can be frozen for a treat later in the year when there is not a scape in sight. The pesto could be frozen but will darken due to the herb content.
Pesto is more of a formula than a recipe, though for those who prefer directions, try this recipe from Epicurious.
If you are ready for pesto 201, try:
- changing up the nuts (and always toast & cool them before you blend them!) Almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, maybe even pistachios?
- try another hard cheese for a different flavor, or leave out the cheese entirely (and definitely skip the cheese if you’re going to be freezing the pesto)
Prepared scape pesto can be used like traditional pesto with pasta or potatoes, mixed with butter or additional olive oil to be eaten with bread, used as the base of a vinaigrette, used as the finishing touch on a simple soup, and so many other ways.
Calling this next formula/recipe a chimichurri is really a stretch, but hopefully the flavor will give me permission to take liberties. This is really a sauce that uses the abundance of our local farms, farmers’ market or gardens and packs it all into one super tasty mix. The herbs in this “chimichurri” are really flexible, so substitute what you like or use what you have on hand.
Garlic Scape Chimichurri
1 bunch garlic scapes
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch green onions (green ends only) or chives
1 teaspoon ground cumin (or to taste)
1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
¼ t crushed red pepper flakes (or a small chili pepper or the heat source of your choice)
optional Olive oil
Toss all of the herbs, spices and vinegar in the food processor, drizzle in oil as it blends until the sauce has reached desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
This is great as a marinade or as a sauce with grilled meat or vegetables. It is also delicious with a bit more vinegar as a salad dressing. This chimichurri stores well in the fridge, but will darken with age.
This season, join the cult of the scape. Chances are you’ll come up with a thousand more ways to use them just as they’re leaving the market, so don’t forget to make a list for next year!