Garlic scape pesto

June 18, 2012 · 12 comments

One of my favorite things to do is go to the farmer’s market, stand at the table of one of the vendors, pick something up, and have to say, “What’s this?”

My agricultural ignorance continues, and I hope it never stops.

Last weekend it happened with these beauties:

Garlic scapes.

The stalk of the garlic bulb — I’d heard the name but never seen them. The farmer* sold a bunch to me for a buck, and told me to use them in stir-fry, that they needed to be cooked a little.

But for some reason when he said the name, “garlic scape,” the next word that came to mind was “pesto.”

So I came home, googled it, whipped up a batch, and proceeded to eat almost all of it (alone) in just three days. I bought five more bunches at yesterday’s market — I’ve no plans to be without a jar of this in my fridge anytime soon.

Fiercely pungent, with a solid kick. Performs a small miracle on a plate of scrambled eggs, and if I were a bread-eating girl right now, I’d for sure be spreading it on a tomato sandwich. For now I’ll settle with a carrier of grain-free crackers, looking forward to more adventures next summer when I’m back on the grain wagon.

*These scapes came from Wild’s Apple Farm, which sells chemical-free produce at the Broad Ripple Farmer’s Market.


Recipe: Garlic Scape Pesto

: makes about 3/4 cup

very closely adapted from this recipe


  • 8-10 garlic scapes, trimmed of small bulbs at end of stalk
  • 1/2 cup almonds (could sub walnuts)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • salt & pepper to taste


  1. Wash scapes, and chop into 1″ pieces. Place in bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add almonds, and process until a paste forms (scrape down bowl as necessary).
  2. With machine running, slowly pour in 1/2 cup olive oil.
  3. Add parmesan, pulse to combine.
  4. Thin with additional 1/4 cup olive oil if necessary. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Can be served immediately, but flavor mellows a bit with time.
  6. Store in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to a week.

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2012.

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Stephanie June 18, 2012 at 11:28 am

This recipe sounds so yummy! I have a bumper crop of garlic this year because I planted twice as much. (I really despise running out of garlic mid-winter.) I saved my garlic scapes for the first time this year after hearing wondrous things about their flavoring properties. I cannot believe I’ve been pitching these little beauties in the compost bin for the last few years. Hooray for using more parts of every vegetable. You make me feel so thrifty!

katy June 18, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Stephanie, I am so jealous of your garlic! I’ve been wanting to plant it for a few years and just haven’t made the space. Save every one of those scapes! And please let me know how else you use them (wonder if they could be dehydrated and used dried over winter?…)

designhermomma June 19, 2012 at 10:00 am

This season was the first time I had had these as well. I sauteed them with some kale. It was ok, a bit too much of a spicy bite for me. I need to investigate other ways of preparing them. Maybe I’ll give this a whirl.

katy June 19, 2012 at 11:18 am

I wonder, too, if scapes get more spicy the older and larger they become. The ones I had were small and dainty — but Tim brought some home from a friend last week that were HUGE. So big I didn’t even try to cook with them.

I didn’t saute mine at all, just used them in the pesto — so no idea how they are in a stir-fry. And the pesto *is* kicky, but maybe it’s mellowed out by ground texture and other ingredients?

I can bring you a spoonful ; )

Rebecca June 19, 2012 at 11:14 am

So here’s my difficulty with garlic scapes: I’ve tried them several times (from our garden, from the market), and they have always ended up being stringy and tough unless sautéed. But I hear such good things about garlic pesto!! I want to love it (and the scapes) – but three tries from three different sources, and it’s never turned out soft and pesto-y enough. But yours is a good consistency, it seems. Help me, Katy Carter.

katy June 19, 2012 at 11:20 am

I let my food processor grind them (with the almonds — I think this is important) until they are a paste. Even with this, the pesto is VERY strong at first. I think it’s much better after a day or two. Also, a little goes a long way when using.

How large are your scapes? My reply above wonders if larger scapes are tougher and more potent?

Kristel @ Healthy Frugalista June 20, 2012 at 10:17 am

I concur with Katy. I’ve found that the younger they are, the more tender. Also as they age and lose moisture and become a little stringy and more tough.

Kristel @ Healthy Frugalista June 20, 2012 at 10:19 am

Oops. I meant to leave a link to a post about freezing garlic scapes. If you have too many this is the best way I’ve found to preserve the flavor Using and Preserving Garlic Scapes

katy June 20, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Thanks Kristel!

Erin June 20, 2012 at 12:31 pm

I have gotten in the habit of making a huge batch of pesto and freezing it in tablespoon-sized dollops for use throughout the winter. The spicy bite mellows a bit the longer it’s frozen, but the fresh springy flavor stays strong. So good!

katy June 20, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Erin, I love this idea — I already do it for basil pesto, makes sense to do it for garlic too. I’ve fallen so in-love with the flavor, a huge batch-to-freeze is in order.

meg July 1, 2012 at 5:24 am

Yum! I marinate meat and stick some garlic stems in there, vacuum pack and seal, you get that garlic flavour all the way through…. mmm

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