Garlic scapes

Garlic scapes in late June

If there is one thing that I hope to do in the garden each year, it’s to learn more about the plants we grow and how to make the most of them. A pretty universal aim for any gardener, especially one as new to growing food as I still am. Hardneck garlic has been an easy crop to master and become self sufficient in, in part thanks to a friend who gifted us with a starter crop of a variety that does well in our area. This year we’ll be able to return the favour by sharing some of our harvest with friends who are establishing their garden anew after losing their home to a fire last year.

When I planted our garlic that first year, I was focused solely on the bulbs that would result, not giving any thought to the scapes or flower heads that they put up before maturing. I learned enough that first season to know I should remove the scapes in order to allow the plants to maximize the energy they had to put into growing the bulb. Sadly, I didn’t know enough to keep the scapes and use them in the kitchen. Now, I now better!

More specifically, now I know to make garlic scape pesto and to pickle some of the scapes for a treat long after harvest season is over.

Garlic scapes, parmesan cheese and walnuts in mixer bowl

I’m a big fan of pesto and have done my fare share of experimenting with flavours; chard is probably my favourite, both for flavour and because I can easily grow enough to make plenty. Garlic scape pesto is, as you might expect, pretty seriously garlicky, so it’s best enjoyed as a companion ingredient in a larger dish or meal. It can be prepared very similarly to classic Pesto Genovese with basil and pine nuts, but it’s easy to substitute other nuts and to swap out other ingredients.

Garlic scape pesto in mixer bowl

The pesto pictured here used the following ingredients in these very approximate amounts:

1 cup garlic scapes
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Splash lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

The ingredients were tossed into the bowl of my cuisinart and quickly combined. I was then stuck, as I hadn’t noticed that the button which is used to release the lid had gone missing. My 16-year old came to the rescue with a typical MacGyver move, pictured here (and it works a treat):

Cuisinart lid with stick

I prepared seven jars of pesto for freezing with most of the scapes (from roughly 120 garlic plants), but reserved a small batch for pickling.

Jars of garlic scape pesto

The recipe for pickling garlic scapes on Foodie with Family is exactly what I was looking for, so I followed the method and ingredients exactly. It’s been far too hot for canning, so I was completely on board with a method of preservation that didn’t require that step.

Ingredients for pickling garlic scapes

The cleaned and de-blemished scapes are coiled in a sterile jar, black peppercorn, mustard seed, coriander seed and hot pepper flakes are sprinkled over them, and a solution of apple cider vinegar, water, kosher salt and sugar is heated and then poured over the scapes.

Garlic scapes coiled in a jar

Six weeks later, the pickled scapes are ready to be used as a garnish; I can’t wait to try them on pizza, as suggested on Foodie with Family. Apparently they will keep in the refrigerator for up to eight months using this method. Sounds good to me!

Jar of pickled garlic scapes

13 thoughts on “Garlic scapes

  1. I chopped and froze all mine, but am thinking maybe I can thaw some later and try making pesto with them then…what do you think? I never thought of pickling them, though now that you’ve mentioned it, I have seen recipes for that. 120 bulbs! Wow. I’m expecting to harvest about 45 this year…

    1. I think you could try making pesto with them once they were defrosted, absolutely worth a shot. Do you normally just defrost them and throw them in with whatever you’re cooking as you would garlic cloves?

      1. Yes, exactly. They’re not very strongly flavoured at that point, certainly not like garlic cloves, but they do add a bit of green in winter, and I can definitely get a whiff of garlic scent when they’re cooking.

    1. You’ve just made me feel better Bill, because I have so much learning and catching up to do. The pictures of the growing you do are a tremendous inspiration for me. If I’ve been able to give you a tip for next year, that’s super!

  2. I just purchased a bunch of garlic scapes yesterday! We love, love garlic scape pesto – on noodles, bread and crackers. Pickled garlic scapes sound wonderful to me. What a nice gift for someone. (hint, hint). 😉

    1. I hope you enjoy your own garlic scapes, that’s wonderful that you found some! If you’d like a couple of bulbs to plant in your own garden, I could save a couple for you – such an easy crop!

  3. The scapes are amazingly sculptural with those perfect curly tops. The pesto sounds zingy and fantastic, and I’m thinking the pickled scapes would be perfect atop a big fat burger!

  4. What variety of garlic do you grow? We grew garlic for the first time this year and went with Russian Red. It was very easy and rewarding! I also make pesto with my scapes and freeze it for use through the winter. Next year I’ll have to try pickling some!

    1. Lise, I’m sorry it took me a while to get back to you. I’ve checked in with the friend who gave us her garlic. As I thought, she got it from a friend years ago, and no one knows the original variety! All I can tell you is that it’s a hardneck variety and it seems to do very well in our area. I’d be happy to send you some cloves to plant if you were interested! cheers, Dagne

      1. No problem! I am just getting caught up with the blogosphere after being away for the better part of a year, so I get it 🙂 Thanks for checking into what type you grow. We’ve already planted ours for next year (we’ve been planting it in the fall… do you plant yours in spring or fall?) But next year if you have enough to spare, I may take you up on your offer then!

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