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Garlic Scape Pesto

Garlic scapes are the top, flowering part of the garlic plant, harvested in the budding stage. The bright green curly stem is a work of art, each one different than the last! Anytime a plant gives energy to the flower, it takes attention away from the plant’s roots. Because we mostly prize the root, or bulb, of the garlic plant (this is the part we are most familiar with as a food and medicine) it is common practice to pick the scapes from the garlic, letting the plant put its energy into the root and grow a big, juicy garlic bulb. As if thinking ahead to your late summer crop of garlic was not enough, garlic scapes are delicious treat along the way… and very good for you. They have all the same properties as the garlic bulb, perhaps in slightly smaller amounts.
Garlic is anti-bacterial and anti-microbial, protecting against cold, flu and food born illnesses and helping the body to fight off infection. It is also an important cardiovascular tonic, helping to increase circulation and strengthen artery walls – increasing their elasticity and decreasing high blood pressure. The anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and immune strengthening properties of garlic are strongest when the plant is eaten raw, but the cardiovascular benefits will be gained by eating raw or cooked garlic.
Garlic scapes are garlic-y tasting – surprise! They can also be a bit sweet, particularly once cooked. Scape pesto is a raw preparation, so the garlic flavor remains strong and all the wonderful health benefits of raw garlic are maintained. Scapes have a short season and they do not store for more than a week or two. I eat scapes sauted, steamed and in pesto when they are in season, I also freeze the pesto for good winter eating – after all, that’s cold and flu season! If you don’t grow garlic yourself, look for scapes at your local farmer’s market or health food store.
1/2 lb. garlic scapes
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbs. parmesan cheese
2 Tbs. sour cream
1/3 cup roasted sunflower seeds
salt and pepper
Wash scapes, if needed, and chop in half or more, just enough to help them blend better. Combine chopped scapes in food processor with other ingredients and blend well. Taste for salt and serve. Salt is an important ingredient here, it will bring out the garlic flavor and elevate it above the sweetness of the scapes. The amount of salt needed varies depending on how salty the cheese you use is, but I usually 1/2 – 1 tsp.
I have access to amazing, raw sour cream from a local dairy, which is a delicious addition to this recipe along with the parmesan. If you don’t eat dairy you can leave out the sour cream and the parmesan and still be left with a very delicious and flavorful spread!

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