Despite the rather wintry weather of late, our hardneck garlic has remained on schedule, pushing up long curly scapes which I harvested eagerly in a spell of evening sunshine.
I chopped the scapes roughly, then threw them into a food processor along with some basil leaves ( Sweet Green and Purple Ruffles both grown from seed), a handful of pine nuts, a dash of water and a lashing of virgin olive oil, to make a simple coarse pesto.
I was fairly frugal with the olive oil, adding just enough to bind the mixture, while keeping the pesto on the dry side. Scapes have a slightly milder, fresher taste than bulb garlic – though still packing a fairly powerful punch. We enjoyed spoonfuls of this zingy pistachio-green paste spread on salmon fillets, which were then wrapped in foil and baked in the oven; the pesto also makes a great seasoning stirred through new potatoes – or pasta.
Taking advantage of the paste’s ability to hold its shape, I scooped spoonfuls into plastic bags to freeze flat, before shaking the frozen pesto balls together for more compact storage, where they will be easily accessible to add a taste of summer to other dishes. You could use ice cube trays, particularly for a more liquid pesto, though the trays may not be serviceable for ice cubes afterwards – garlic ice, anyone?
Pesto is such a versatile dish; adding parmesan cheese, rocket or kale leaves, or swapping the pine nuts for any other nut that is to hand are just a few possible variations. If pesto is not your thing, the scapes can also be roasted, pickled or added fresh to other dishes. In this gap between using up last year’s garlic harvest, and waiting for the new crops to come, the scapes provide a welcome burst of flavour.