They first appeared at the Saturday Greenmarket about a month ago: initially just a handful or so of curly green, tentacle-like stems, more decorative/ornamental—or even scary—than appetizing. (I daresay they WOULD actually work well in summer flower arrangements).
Don’t be fooled. Garlic scapes, the bud-bearing stalks of subterranean culinary garlic are the latest figurative and literal flowering of our collective taste-obsession for the allium family. They are a cast-off in cultivating of bulb garlic, removed before flowering in a transfer of energy intended to make the bulbs grow larger.
If harvested young they are still pliable—as they age they get a bit stiff or woody. Taste-wise they relate to garlic much in the same way that scallion tops relate to onions— milder while retaining the herbal character of the common form, without the overpowering strength.
As a recent addition to the amateur kitchen there’s not much of a culinary history, and it seems best to treat them as a seasonal herb: as a small dice they make an excellent garnish for omelets and bean or pasta salads. Chip Allemann at The Garrison suggests steaming or sauteing. (Be sure you’re using fresh scapes and remove the papery flower buds.)
I suspect they would be delicious as a side dish or tossed in an Asian noodle dish. (Hmmmmm: sesame noodles with scapes, anyone?)
Again, as a seasonal herb, they easily lend themselves to a simple pesto, which could be tossed with pasta, risotto or potatoes or added to a white bean puree for a quick and simple party dip.
Garlic Scape Pesto
One dozen fresh garlic scapes, flower buds removed, cut into small (1/2 inch) pieces
1/3-cup pine nuts (or walnuts or almonds)
¾ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup grated Parmigiano
Salt & pepper to taste
Place scapes and nuts in the bowl of a food processor and chop until fine.
Slowly drizzle in oil and process until emulsified.
Blend in cheese, lemon juice and additional oil if necessary. Salt and pepper to taste.
Keeps for about a week refrigerated in a sealed container. May be frozen.