Garlic Scape Pesto

header_garlic_scape_pestoFour years ago we started growing our own garlic. And by “we”, I mean Larry – as is often the case with growing things you can actually eat. I grow flowers, Larry grows food. But then, I cook the food, so he is not complaining.

Anyway, this Garlic Scape Pesto is a great way to use something we get a whole heck of a lot of this time of year. When you grow two hundred heads of garlic, guess how many garlic scapes you get? That is correct – you get two hundred garlic scapes. That’s a lot.

Scapes are important to the garlic – it’s how more garlic plants happen. There are little seeds in the bigger round part, and if you leave the scapes in place, they would eventually burst open, scattering ripe seeds around, which will germinate and make more garlic plants. Unfortunately, in so doing, they draw nutrients away from the growing of the bulb they are on – and the bulbs are what is important to us. So, they all have to be cut off. And since we can’t stand to waste anything, we are working on finding ways to use them.

garlic pant

This is the first sign of a garlic plant in the spring, but they grow very quickly.

I have tried various ways to cook garlic scapes, and to be honest, they are not our favorite thing. We try to catch them when they’re still really small, because if they get very big at all, we find them to be unpleasantly tough and chewy. They have a great flavor, but the texture is – not so great.handful of garlic scapesFortunately, they are really wonderful in pesto, because we get all the great flavor and they get completely ground up, so texture isn’t an issue. And we LOVE pesto. I make as much of it as I can every summer and freeze it in ice cube trays to enjoy through the winter. Once the pesto is frozen solid, you can just pop the cubes out of the tray and store them in ziplock bags or other containers. You do want to have some trays dedicated solely to pesto and like substances though – the ice cube trays will absorb the flavor and pesto flavored iced tea is surprisingly un-tasty.

simple ingredients make the best pesto

Simple ingredients make the best pesto

You will likely be able to find garlic scapes at your local Farmer’s Market this time of year, or maybe even in your CSA box. If you know someone who grows garlic, they might have some to share – they are worth looking for!

Garlic Scape Pesto
Recipe type: Condiment, Sauces, Spreads
Serves: 1 & ½ cups
Prep time: 
Total time: 
  • ½ cup chopped garlic scapes
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ⅓ cup lightly toasted pine nuts
  • ½ cup fresh basil, packed tightly - then roughly chopped
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • kosher salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
  • ⅓ cup good quality olive oil
  1. Add everything but the oil to the bowl of a food processor
  2. Process until everything is finely chopped and almost a paste.
  3. Leave the processor running and stream in oil
  4. It will only take a moment of two for the mixture to emulsify - turn off processor.
  5. Leave at room temperature for an hour or so to develop flavors- keep plastic wrap pressed to top surface to keep the top from turning brown.
  6. Can be stored in the refrigerator for several days, or can be frozen.

 garlic scape pestoGarlic Scape Pesto is wonderful anywhere that you would use ordinary pesto – on vegetables, pasta, in sandwiches, topping a bowl of soup – just about anything, really. Experiment to find how you like to use it most!

41 thoughts on “Garlic Scape Pesto

  1. Pingback: Garlic Scape Pesto | dlyn

  2. Whahhhh how beautiful your pesto color is!! I love garlic scape – we use it in Japanese cooking, but never thought of using it to make pesto. Nice idea! I love to use this for pasta or sandwich. Must be phenomenal…

    • Thanks Nami – it is great! Maybe I need to check out some Japanese recipes to find other ways to use it that we will like!

  3. Donalyn,
    Wonderful photos!
    After years of feeling kind of meh about using my homegrown scapes, and my CSA scapes, in stir fries or pizza, I finally made garlic scape pesto the other night. I ended up with a bit more than 1 batch worth, so I added some scapes to sun dried tomatoes + other things and made a second batch of pesto. Then, of course, I made 4 pizzas using the 2 pestos. (Yes, all on Friday night). I started the kids off with the garlic scape pesto + four cheese pizza and the sun-dried tomato, cheese, and pepperoni pizza while I finished up my antipasti pizzas. By the time I’d joined them the garlic scape pesto pizza was nearly gone and my son told me it tasted just like cheesy garlic bread. I’m delighted to have the rest in the freezer.

    What do you do with 200 heads of garlic? I do about 30 and thought that was plenty, I can’t imagine so many.


    • That pizza sounds wonderful Kirsten – I love the comparison to garlic bread. I have used some of my frozen pesto on garlic bread before and it is wonderful!

      The 200 heads of garlic are for a couple reasons – first, we go through at least 100 to 125 heads just for eating ourselves. We love our garlic around here 🙂 We do give some away and last year we sold some as well. You need your seed garlic for the next year of course, so that takes probably 40 heads, using only the very biggest cloves. My husband is working on a local, very hardy strain with enormous cloves that are still very strongly flavored. Our thought is to either sell eating or seed garlic in the future.

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  9. I’m going to make this tonight — we normally just sautee our scapes in butter and salt and add as a topping to burgers – which is quite nice. But I did about 100 heads of garlic this year so I have too much for just a few burgers! 😉 I’ll report back but I am confident in your recipe!

  10. Wow. So I harvested a heap of scapes, thinking I’d pickle them, but that made me sad because I don’t really like pickled things. And so it was time for research. Which brought up your recipe. It was SO easy and SO tasty! We had some on ciabata to ‘test’ and finding it perfectly delish, baked chicken in it, with a sprinkling of mozza at the end. Tomorrow, I’m off out for more pine nuts to use the rest – no pickles here! We’re making lots and lots of pesto! Thank you!!!!

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  13. I love discovering fellow garlic enthusiasts! I’ve been making a scape pesto similar to this for many years, but I use a mix of pistachios and cashews in place of the pine nuts. I find they add a beautiful creamy-smooth texture and flavour. Cheers!

  14. This sounds like a great pesto! You mentioned possibly selling seed garlic. I’m very interested in a hardy strain with large cloves. Are you in fact selling them, and do you do mail order? Thanks!

    • Hi Jacalyn – we might do mail order if we had enough, but we are pretty much sold out for this year. We bought our original planting online, and I’m sure you could find a source by Googling “seed garlic”.

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