Finally! Ermahgerd!!!! Did you think that winter would ever end?? I for one did not. Today in NYC it was 90 and stickeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! But that means not only are the farmers’ markets in full spring swing, they are pushing out the bounty that Mother Earth shares this time of year. Garlic scapes! Remember them? I am scooping them up to dose plain ole pesto with these fresh shoots and flowering stems of the garlic bulb, while also jam-packing the processor with not only basil, but also arugula and parsley. Arugula and Garlic Scape Pesto! Oh yeah!!
Those growing garlic will be familiar with this curlicue that shoots up from the buried bulb. I’m sending out this scape pesto recipe now because my readers are scattered across the globe, and it is found from May through July, depending on where you are. It usually starts shooting up about a month after the bulb’s first leaves, and many will cut it back and compost to stop diverting energy so the bulb itself can fatten up. Resist! Just say no! Cut back, but don’t compost. There are many things you can do with these stems, from chopping and adding to a potato salad, to making sauces like this scape pesto, to making those cute bundles below. They can be eaten raw, blanched, roasted or grilled. For a deep dive on all things you can do with these divine shoots, check out (and follow) Suzie Durigon at Just Crumbs. She has a wonderful post on everything you always wanted to know about scapes.
Try to find a farmer that will sell you a big bag. They last a month or so in a plastic bag in the fridge, and buying them by the piece can get pricey. I have seen them for a quarter each, but I shop at the end of the day and dazzle farmers with my true appreciation for this shoot. I can usually make off with a 2-gallon ziplock filled for just $10. As long as you are successful in your hunt, why don’t you whip up a batch of Roasted Garlic Scapes? You won’t be sorry. They have that I-want-more-ish quality like salted edamame, with a big dose of robust flavor. Plus they are easy-peasy and are a bit of a show stopper.
Arugula & Scape Pesto
The ingredients, ratios and directions are detailed below, but rest easy that this is a 5 minute processor recipe. The scapes, arugula, parsley, and basil give it a jewel-like green color and the Parmesan and sunflower seeds (so much cheaper and flavorful than pine nuts) give it some body. I am serving it here atop a fresh gemelli (did you know that is Italian for twins, as the pasta is doubled over and twisted together?) and oven-dried tomatoes. The tomatoes are from the freezer and were dried at the end of last season when they were at their peak. I linked the recipe below so you can keep it in mind for later this year. You could also add some of the other spring veggies, like peas or asparagus tossed in at the end of the pasta’s cooking, or even some sauteed morels or other spring mushrooms. This flavorful pesto is not limited to pasta: drizzle it on a Caprese, marinate vegetables for the grill, or spoon it on a grilled steak or chicken breast. It’s so universal you can also slather it on a panini.
Swapping out more mature bulb garlic with just-in-season garlic shoots, while supplementing the basil with arugula and parsley, gives this scape pesto a bright and spring-like freshness that is great on anything from pasta to grilled fare to tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.
10 – 12 garlic scapes, trimmed and sliced crosswise
1 cup tightly packed basil
1/2 cup tightly packed Italian parsley
1/2 cup tightly packed arugula
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
Juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Place the scape, basil, parsley and arugula in the work bowl of a food processor and pulse 8 – 10 times until coarsely chopped.
Add the remaining ingredients, except the olive oil, and pulse again to combine. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a thin stream until combined and desired texture is reached, scraping down the side of the workbowl as necessary.
Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
The salt in this recipe is based on using it with pasta. If you plan to use it in a non-carby way like a fresh mozzarella drizzle, then you may want to cut back on the salt.
Serve on pasta – hot or cold; top a tomato and fresh mozzarella Caprese; spoon onto grilled chicken, steaks, fish or vegetables; or slather on a sammy.
Prep Time:5 minutes
Keywords: Scape Pesto
When you give this spring arugula and scape pesto a whirl, tag me on Instagram and as always, I LOVE to see your comments below.
So here’s the full disclosure on Garlic Scapes – you are either going to have to run right now or bookmark this page for next year. I’ve kind of being keeping this secret recipe under wraps so there would be more for me (sorry, not sorry). Depending on your location, you may still be able to get this magical ingredient. #fingerscrossed
Garlic Scapes. While it’s not new to me – I have been going mano a mano with it for years to get the twisty, curly scapes straight enough to chop – it was only last year that I learned about making bundles and roasting them. Scapes are the bud of the garlic plant and are a milder, slightly sweeter version of the bulb. For years, I chopped it – best I could – and threw it raw in salads, especially hearty ones like potato salad. Or sautéed it in brown butter and tossed it with pasta, wilted greens, and some good parm. For a full FAQ on this magical shoot, check out Just Crumbs.
Source (right photo above and below): Maple Achers
It is no coincidence that I fell in love with this recipe at exactly the same time I met the amazing Russ and Linda Hepler-Beaty of Maple Achers Farm. Who doesn’t love a couple that come to farming a bit later in life and change the spelling of acres to better describe the pain of toiling away in their fields. I met them in Leland, Michigan (Thursday markets during season) with their super festive spread of interesting and often heirloom vegetables stylishly presented from their Veggie-mobile – a tricked out vintage (1965) Airstream with a brightly striped yellow canopy. Years of catering, food styling and a more recent foray into photography make me a sucker for a gorgeous spread. Too often farmers line the wooden baskets with plastic bags for grab and go service, which in my mind not only ruins the aesthetic but also the compostable nature of fresh produce.
Linda is a genius at using props that scream FARMLAND – maple sap buckets filled to overflowing with Portuguese kale bunches, a 3-tiered galvanized cake stand with bundles of herbs, wooden baskets and colorful fabrics. She and Russ are quick to offer a cooking suggestion – cook the fava beans like edamame – and general advice – drink wine while shelling peas. Hell, yes.
The 10 acre farm in the heart of Leelanau County (Maple City, Michigan) is Certified Naturally Grown. Using plot rotation, nourishing fallow ground with cover crops, along with a strategic release of 300,000 lady bugs over the summer – you CAN get them on Amazon. I checked – they plant about 3+ acres and as foodies-first offer a more unique and interesting veggie line up than most farm stands.
Almost all vegetables come in a variety of colors – beets are garnet, orange and white; potatoes – red, white & blue; cauliflower is lime, white, orange and lavender; even currants are red and pink champagne. Radishes range from yellow Polish Helios to lavender Asian Daikons, with about 6 stops in between. Russ suggested grilling the Bravo daikon, and Linda chimed in with the idea to add grilled escarole, and top with feta and a drizzle of vinaigrette.
Having only a few scapes to test their roasted garlic scapes recipe last year, I waited all winter for the first sign this spring. Apparently used to selling them one by one, I surprised the Grand Haven farmers by scooping up their entire stash. I have since made them a few times and they have that mouth-pop-ability of edamame. Olive oil and salt – what could be bad?
If you are in Leland on a Thursday, check out Maple Achers and try a new veggie. Otherwise, run, run, run to gather up a handful of garlic scapes while you still can! And yes, I’m still holding, so let me know if you are desperate.