Until this year, I had never heard of garlic scapes and then suddenly they were everywhere - a post over on the CLBB and a lot of pictures on Food Gawker. I even saw them at my local farmer's market, but skipped them over since I really didn't know what to do with them. Finally I saw a recipe for Garlic Scape Pesto and decided that I had to try them.
For those of you not familiar with scapes, according to the Really Garlicky Company:
Hardneck garlic developes an impressive flowering stalk, called a scape, which can grow from 24 to 48 inches in height. At the top is the "seed" pod, more properly called the umbel, which contains the flowers and bulbils. The umbel pod is covered in by the spathe, which often has a pronounced beak. Some garlic varieties give improved yields if the scape is cut before umbel development. The scapes on Rocamboles form beautiful circular curls. These are prized by floral arrangers in some countries, especially Japan.After buying them, I was quite sure which part of the scape to use - all of it or just the portion below the pod. After reading on the internet, I decided to use only the portion below the pod, but I have since seen a few photos showing cooks using the entire scape. Using the whole scape might make more sense if you were leaving the scape intact for effect rather than cutting them up for something like pesto. I also thought my pods were quite a bit larger than most of those I had seen pictured and wasn't sure if this might create and undesirable texture or flavor.
I tried a bit of scape before tossing it into the food processor to make the pesto and I was surprised with how garlicky it was after most of what I ready described scapes as being much milder than a regular garlic clove. They are definitely milder - had a I used a similar amount of garlic in this pesto, it would have been overpowering - but they had more bite than I was expecting.
This recipe is a pretty basic pesto but it does not use as much basil as my go-to basil pesto and it includes a bit of chardonnay which added a nice zing to the pesto. In place of the lemon olive oil, I used extra-virgin olive oil and a bit of lemon zest. We'll be using this pesto on paninis this weekend.
I imagine that scapes are probably out of season by now, but the next time I happen to spot them at the farmer's market, I'll grab a few and try them as is - in a saute or on a pizza - rather than chopping them to bits in something like a pesto. It's always fun to try something new!