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A Scape to Remember: The Sunflower Pesto Affair

I probably have an unhealthy obsession with garlic.

Which goes against my teenage obsession with vampires.

I’ll put it on everything. And I mean everything.

Garlic butter for steamed shrimp… crab legs..steamed clams. I am certain it’s a ratio of 1:1 butter and garlic. And it’s not just a quick dip into the butter, it’s a deep dive to dredge up perfectly confit garlic minces in every bite.

For the first time ever, I planted my own garlic. Thanks to my friends Dino and Jeff, they gave me over 100 cloves.

I planted the cloves in November. Then I waited. And waited.

And finally, the plants are large and hearty. And the scapes are strong and sturdy. Time to snip them off.

I was told I had to pluck them off the plant. But then what do I do? Ahhh, thanks to my friend Judy, who suggested pesto since she was making it with her scapes, I guess I’ll make a pesto- but I’m cheating on the Italian version, just a little.

Garlic scapes are the curly, green shoots that emerge from garlic bulbs as they grow. It’s where the flower of the garlic plant will emerge. When the scape is snipped off, it allows the energy of the plant to return to the bulb underground. Harvesting garlic scapes not only encourages larger bulb growth but also provides a delicious addition to seasonal cooking.

Often overlooked, these flavorful stalks pack a punch of garlicky goodness with a hint of mildness, making them perfect for pesto. Using garlic scapes not only adds a unique flavor dimension but also reduces waste by utilizing a part of the garlic plant that might otherwise be discarded.

I can’t wait to harvest the bulbs in a few months, keeping the greens on so I can braid and dry for fall.

Cooking Class with Carol

The Versatility of Basil

Basil is the backbone of traditional pesto recipes, prized for its fresh, aromatic flavor and vibrant green color. When combined with garlic scapes, basil lends its characteristic sweetness and herbal notes to the pesto, creating a harmonious blend of flavors that is both familiar and intriguing.

Nutty Elevation

Toasted pine nuts are a classic addition to pesto, bringing a rich, nutty flavor and creamy texture to the sauce. Toasting the pine nuts before blending intensifies their nuttiness and adds a subtle depth of flavor to the pesto. Today I didn’t have pine nuts, so I used roasted sunflower seeds I purchased for salads.

Try many different nuts for a unique different nutty flavor, you can also experiment with toasted walnuts, almonds, or cashews for delicious variations.

The Power of Cheese

Parmesan or pecorino cheese contributes a salty, umami-rich element to the pesto, enhancing its overall depth and complexity. Be sure to use freshly grated Parmesan for the best flavor and texture. If you're vegan or prefer a dairy-free option, you can substitute nutritional yeast or your favorite vegan cheese alternative for a similarly savory result.

Customization and Creativity

One of the joys of making pesto at home is the freedom to customize the recipe to suit your taste preferences and dietary needs. Feel free to experiment with different herb and nut combinations, such as substituting part of the basil with parsley, cilantro, or spinach, or swapping the pine nuts for almonds, pistachios, or sunflower seeds. You can also adjust the quantities of garlic scapes, basil, cheese, and lemon juice to achieve your desired balance of flavors.

Savoring the Experience

 As you embark on your garlic scape and basil pesto-making journey, take a moment to savor the process and appreciate the simple pleasures of cooking with fresh, wholesome ingredients. Whether you're harvesting garlic scapes from your own garden, browsing the farmers' market for seasonal treasures, or simply enjoying the creative process in your kitchen, let the beauty of nature's bounty inspire you to create culinary magic.

Share the Love

 Homemade pesto is not only a delight to enjoy yourself but also a wonderful gift to share with friends and loved ones. Consider bottling up small jars of garlic scape and basil pesto to give as thoughtful homemade gifts for special occasions or as a gesture of appreciation to those who appreciate the art of good food.

Incorporate this garlic scape and basil pesto recipe into your culinary repertoire and let its vibrant flavors elevate your favorite dishes to new heights of deliciousness. Whether enjoyed tossed with pasta, spread on crusty bread, or drizzled over grilled vegetables, this homemade pesto is sure to delight your senses and nourish your soul. Embrace the magic of homemade goodness and savor the simple pleasures of life, one delectable spoonful at a time.



3 garlic cloves

1 cup garlic scapes, chopped

1 cup fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Juice of half a lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

What to Do

•Prep the garlic scapes by trimming off the tough ends and any flower buds. Chop the scapes into small pieces, discarding any tough or woody parts.

In a food processor or blender, combine the garlic and salt. Pulse for a few seconds.

•Add chopped garlic scapes, fresh basil leaves, grated Pecorino cheese, and roasted sunflower seeds.

Begin pulsing the ingredients while slowly drizzling in the extra virgin olive oil. Continue blending until the mixture reaches a smooth, creamy consistency.

•Add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste, and blend for another few seconds to incorporate all the flavors evenly.

•Taste the pesto and adjust the seasoning if necessary. You can add more salt, pepper, or lemon juice to suit your preference.

•Once satisfied with the flavor, transfer the garlic scape and basil pesto to a clean jar or airtight container. Store it in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze it in ice cube trays for longer preservation.

Enjoy your homemade pesto in countless ways! Toss it with freshly cooked pasta, spread it on sandwiches or wraps, use it as a pizza sauce, or drizzle it over roasted vegetables for an extra burst of flavor.

Bon appétit!

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