What Is Garlic Scape Pesto?

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  • Written By: Carol Luther
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2019
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Pesto is a flavorful sauce for bread, pasta, pizza and fresh vegetables. It often combines the earthy taste of pine nuts with Parmesan cheese and herbs such as basil. Garlic scape pesto is a variation of the classic pesto recipe that utilizes the tender shoots that grow above ground on garlic bulbs. This pesto requires a supply of garlic scapes instead of garlic cloves.

To make garlic scape pesto, one can purchase garlic scapes at health food stores, farmers markets or from any garlic grower. The best garlic scapes are young and pliable. If the scapes are harvested after they have reached maturity, then they likely will have a strong garlic flavor instead of the delicate hint of garlic for which scapes are known. They also will be less tender, resulting in a lot of waste.

To prepare the scapes for pesto, one removes and discards the flowers from the top of the plant, if present. The scapes must be rinsed thoroughly to remove dirt and insects. This can be done using a colander and sink spray or by swishing them in a bowl of cold water until they are clean. After the scapes dry, they should be minced with kitchen shears or a knife and added to the container in which the pesto will be made.


Along with garlic scapes, many recipes also call for some type of nut. Heart-healthy almonds and walnuts are popular choices. One can grind the nuts and scapes in a food processor and drizzle olive oil into the mixture. Additional and optional ingredients for garlic scape pesto include Parmesan cheese and sea salt.

Homemade garlic scape pesto lasts about a week when refrigerated. The most common uses for garlic scape pesto and traditional pesto include adding flavor to pasta dishes, spreading on bread, and as a sauce for some meats. Cooks who enjoy garlic scape pesto also tend to use it in original ways with rice dishes, fish and fresh vegetable dishes. Garlic scape pesto also complements the combination of flavors in a traditional salad of buffalo mozzarella and tomatoes.

Compared to garlic scape pesto, traditional pesto has a different flavor profile. The traditional Italian recipe uses garlic gloves, which have a stronger flavor than garlic scapes. It also uses basil, an herb with a distinctive green flavor. Pine nuts or pignolias, often roasted before being added to traditional pesto, have an earthy taste that walnuts and almonds will not provide.


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