Harvesting, Processing, and Freezing Garlic-Scape Pesto

Reader Contribution by Blythe Pelham
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A couple of weeks ago a friend called and asked what I do with my garlic scapes. She remembered that I make my garlicky sourdough bread with it and was planning ahead.

May and early June are the perfect time to harvest garlic scape around central Ohio—your area may differ. What you’re looking for are the young and tender curled tops. If a few are older and larger, simply snip off the developing head (as shown in the photo above), they’ll process in with the rest just fine.

Once you’ve snipped to your heart’s content, you’ll want to rinse off your bounty in fresh water. I usually swoosh them around a bit, then drain. However, you may want to inspect more fully since birds tend to like using these sturdy curls as perches. Give your strainer a couple of shakes and drain well.

I use my beloved, forty-year-old Cuisinart food processor (shown in the photo above) to process the scape — this is actually the fastest part of the whole process. I highly recommend cutting the scape into smaller 3-inch pieces before dropping them in the processor. If you don’t, you’ll find that the stocks don’t fall down into the blade for chopping and you end up having to dig them out later. Trust me, it’s a mess.

After you have filled your processor halfway with the pre-cut scape pieces, add at least 2 tablespoons of liquid. If your scapes are very moist — perhaps it’s rained recently — 2 will be plenty. If your scapes are drier, you may want more than 2 tablespoons. I like to use 1 tablespoon of water and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. If you are planning on keeping your pesto in the freezer longer than a year, I suggest using only water as oil can go rancid.

Process the scape until well chopped. I don’t worry about the perfect size at this point because I end up adding another load of scape — about the same amount as I just processed — to the bowl and then continue processing. Don’t forget to add the liquid to the second batch.

Once your pesto is of uniformly minced size, you have some options. The quickest choice is to scoop it into well-labeled freezer bags , press flat to expel the air and freeze. You can also use a vacuum food sealer for your scape. Or you can add my favorite step before doing either of these.

Even though it’s very easy to break off a piece of the previously described frozen pesto for use, I like to pre-freeze my scape in handy recipe-sized portions. I use two different sizes of muffin tins for this choice. The mini tins are perfect for adding to soups and sauces, and the regular size tins are exactly what my recipe for sourdough boules calls for (see link in the first paragraph). This size is also perfect for pasta with scape pesto for two — add a side salad, some sourdough bread, and a glass of wine for perfection.

There are plenty of other uses for garlic scape, but this is my very favorite. I find it versatile, healthy, and easily preserved for use throughout the year. I’ve been told that allowing it to age for at least 3 months in the freezer helps tame the edge off the intensity. I heartily urge you to try playing with growing your own garlic and taking the opportunity to create with the spring scapes it provides. Bon appétit!

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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