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.
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.
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):
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.
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.
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.
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!