Garlic Scape & Basil Pesto

July 16, 2018

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A fellow homesteader recently told me that she brought a bunch of garlic scapes to the farmers' market only to have them passed over by everyone who shopped at her stand.  Oh, what they missed out on.


As I shared in my article about early season alliums, garlic scapes are an outstanding early garden treat that offer some of the same benefits of garlic - long before you can actually pick the garlic.  Those curly spikes might look tough, but once you break them down they're are just as lovely as garlic itself and help impart flavor into tons of dishes.

Since we plant about 125 garlic heads each year, that translates into the same number of scapes, which means we have a LOT to work with.  They'll store well in the fridge but they aren't a long-term storage candidate like actual garlic heads, so you have to use them within a few weeks.




The best way to use up a lot of scapes, in my humble opinion? 




Earlier this season we shared our recipe for arugula and garlic scape pesto.  In that recipe, garlic scapes are a lovely secondary green.  In this one, they are the star ingredient, with the addition of some basil to balance them out.  

A few notes on this recipe:

  • Spiciness: It can have a kick - like regular garlic, garlic scapes have varying degrees of heat but they can be quite spicy.  You can cut a little piece off of your scape and give it a try.  If you think it will be too spicy raw, one option is to chop up your scapes and pour boiling water over them.  This helps to tone them down just a little bit.  That said, the flavor will mellow out a bit as the pesto sits.  I'm eating it on day 2 and its already weaker than it was when I first made it.

  • Pine Nuts vs. Sunflower Seeds: pesto is often made with pine nuts, but these days buying a bag of pine nuts is kind of like buying a rare gem (they're so expensive).  Sunflower seeds are a great alternative that offer good flavor and similar consistency.  If you prefer pine nuts then by all means you can substitute them, but we're living frugally over here at the Hive.

  • Saving your Pesto in the Freezer: one of the great things about pesto is how easily it can be frozen and saved for later.  The best method for saving pesto, in my opinion, is a flexible ice cube tray.  Just fill as many spaces as you want, freeze the cubes, then remove them and place them in a ziploc bag for future use.  Pull out one or two each time you want to use this pesto in a recipe.


  • Using your Pesto: need some ideas for how to make great use of this pesto?  Put it on pasta; use it in place of marinara sauce on pizza; use it as a spread for sandwiches; mix it into salad dressing or a dip; marinade your chicken in it; or my personal favorite for this recipe - use it to top your bread when making bruscetta - yum!  In the photo above, I've simply smeared it across a slice of homemade maple oatmeal bread and I'm eating it for a snack while I write!



Recipe: Garlic Scape & Basil Pesto



1 1/2 cups chopped garlic scapes (about 15-20 scapes)

1 cup basil (lightly pressed to fill the full cup)

3/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

3 Tablespoons lemon juice (or the juice of 1-2 lemons)

salt (to taste)



Place the garlic scapes in a food processer and use your pulse setting to chop them up pretty well (about 15 one-second pulses).  Add the Sunflower seeds and pulse another 15 times.  Scrapes the sides and give it a few more.


Turn the food processor on and add the olive oil through the top opening while the scapes and sunflower seeds continue to process.  Once well incorporated, remove the cover and add the basil,  parmesan cheese, and lemon juice.


Add the salt, one pinch at a time, testing until you get the flavor you want.


Serve immediately, store in the refrigerator for 3-5 days, or freeze in ice cube trays for later use.




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