The Great-est Scape


my bouquet of garlic scapes

I picked up a beautiful, gnarly tangle of garlic scapes from the farmers’ market this weekend to play around with and found so many delicious uses for them: grilled flatbread; mixed pepper stir-fry; pickled with chiles and bay leaves; and pesto.

What the heck is a garlic scape, you ask? It is the long, green flower stem that grows from a head of garlic. Farmers remove the scapes which draw energy and nutrients away from the  bulbs so that the bulbs may grow larger and more robust. It’s a lovely sacrifice that I’m happy to accept–guiltlessly. They’re generally available at farmers’ markets in early to mid summer, so now is the time to binge. You can freeze them with a quick blanch and flash-freeze but it’s not quite the same.

Fresh, at first bite, they’re mildly garlicky and very green tasting, but after a few seconds, they explode into that recognizably sharp, pungent and spicy garlic flavor. When sautéed, however, they become mellow and sweet with a delicate suggestion of garlic. The texture is not unlike a tender green bean or pencil-thin asparagus. 

Preparation couldn’t be simpler. Trim an inch or so from the tough, woody bottoms and the brown feathery tops  and then cut into whatever size pieces you like.  For the flat bread, and stir-fry, I cut them into 2-inch pieces and sautéed them until crisp-tender. For the pickles, I cut them to fit the jar and left them raw because I wanted a pronounced flavor and a crunchy texture–think garlic dills without the cucumbers. 



vibrant and green garlic scape pesto with pine nuts


The same went for the pesto. The vibrant, green flavor would be irresistible on grilled bread or simple grilled chicken, both of which I served that night–deliciously! Ordinarily I like to toast nuts for pesto because it adds a more distinct nutty flavor, but here, I left them raw so as not to interfere with the garlic too much. For that reason, I also left out the cheese, though pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano would be fine.  Honestly, it could go either way and still be dreamy. Please try it while scapes are still at the market. They don’t last forever! 


Makes about 1 cup

10 large garlic scapes, bottom ends and browned tops trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/4 cup (packed) Italian parsley

1/4 cup pine nuts (toasted optional)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil


1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)

Put the scapes, parsley and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. While the machine is running add the oil and process to a chunky puree. Season with salt. Stir in cheese if so desired and use on grilled chicken or bread, with pasta,  grain or bean salads.  

9 thoughts on “The Great-est Scape

  1. Ironically I just bought some on Sunday, and was going to ask you how to prepare them. I will try the pesto, or any of the OTHER recipes we discussed on our way to lunch yesterday. I can’t wait to try them. It’s rare that I find a new type of food that I haven’t experienced.

  2. I had never seen/used garlic scapes but saw them at the farmer’s market and they had me very intrigued. I threw them in a quick sautee with heirloom tomatoes, shallots, garlic (ha!), and olive oil and tossed some spaghetti with it. It was delicious! I also added it raw to a salad which may have been a bit much! Going to try this next!

    • Ooh! Amy, that pasta sounds SO delicious–you had a triple dose of strong flavors with the scapes, shallots AND garlic! Breath mints for dessert, perhaps? Hope you like the pesto. Saw some at the farmers market last weekend but they looked so sad. Hoping for more this weekend!

      • I, for better or worse, love garlic and onions so much, which more often than not results in possibly the worst morning breath ever the day after some of my dinners 😉

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