Garlic scapes are one of the best heralds of summer. Up here in Maine, we plant garlic cloves in the fall, letting them grow some roots before the winter freeze. Then we weed and and feed them painstakingly in the spring. Garlic, like many other alliums, is day-length sensitive. It will only put on vegetative growth until the summer solstice. Then, it will start to form a bulb and mature. We try to get as much vegetative growth as we can, because a bigger plant essentially means bigger garlic!
Garlic scapes are the flower stalk of the garlic plant. Hardneck garlic varieties produce scapes, whereas softneck varieties have been bred to produce as few scapes as possible so the plant sends all its energy to the bulb. We grow mostly hardneck varieties (Phillips, German Extra Hardy, Georgian Fire, a strain of Music from NY and a strain of Music improved on in Bowdoinham) and one softneck (Inchelium Red).
When we pick garlic scapes, we not only get a delicious vegetable, we also cause the garlic plant to send its energy back into bulb forming. So by growing lots of hardnecks, we don't get as great a percentage of energy going to the bulb as with soft necks, but we'll take the garlic scapes instead. So will you, too, if you try this pesto!
2 cups garlic scapes (about 20 scapes, and no need to be super exact)
1 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
Chop the garlic scapes into pieces about an inch or smaller. You can see from the picture above that I am not very scientific about it. Put a quarter of the scapes, the salt, and a big splash of the olive into a food processor and blend until it starts to smooth out. Add the rest of the scapes and olive in batches until the whole thing is as smooth as you want it.
Note: At this stage, you can also add nuts (2 tablespoons of pine nuts, sunflower seeds, or chopped walnuts), cheese (2 tablespoons of parmesan), lemon juice (2 tablespoons), or anything else you fancy in your pesto (a 50-50 garlic scape/basil blend is very nice).
Serve on toast, pasta, grilled veggies, you name it! Alternatively, you can freeze it in any freezer container and get it out in the depths of winter when you need to remember summer.