How to Make Garlic Scape Paste
Making garlic scape paste is a great way to make sure that none of you garlic scapes go to waste. In this article I explain how to do it.
Ingredients (makes 2 litres (8 cups)
Roughly 6 cups of chopped up garlic scapes
1 1/4 cup water
1 1/4 cup oil
Juice of 1 Lemon
2 tsp salt
I grow about 250 heads of hard-neck garlic every year. Each one of those plants develop a “garlic-scape” at some point in late spring or early summer. All of the garlic scapes need to be harvested during a one to two week window of time, and they only keep in the fridge for about a week. They can be used in stir fries, pastas, and other dishes – but when you grow a lot of garlic there is simply no way to use them up before they go bad.
What is a garlic scape?
Hard-neck garlic send up a stalk in late spring that develops a “bulbil” at the end. The bulbil seems like a flower, but it’s better described as a cluster of tiny clones of the parent plant. No pollination is required for each bulbil segment to become a new plant. The entire garlic scape is edible, and it is worth harvesting because cutting them off will result in larger heads of garlic when they are ready for harvest.
When to harvest and why you should do it
Garlic scapes grow straight up into the air until the bulbil begins to form and then they begin to twist at the end in a circular fashion. When a scape makes one full circle it is ready to harvest, and you harvest it by snapping it off at its base.
Removing the scape has the effect of causing the plant to invest all its energy into the bulb. Garlic are survivors! They reproduce by investing energy into their bulb and the bulbils. By removing the bulbil you give them only one option, and by doing that you
get bigger garlic. By removing the scape after one full twist you get a scape that is tender, at a point where it has only taken up a fraction of the energy that it has to invest in reproduction.
How to do it
Chop up the scapes into about 1” pieces. I find the easiest way to do this is to put them all in a large bowl, and to blindly snip at them using kitchen scissors until they are small enough. Next, put about 1/3 of the scapes in a food processor, add the salt, lemon, and about half the water and oil, and pulse until it becomes a green paste; then keep adding more scapes and more oil and water until it’s all in the food processor and it’s all a green paste that resembles guacamole. If your food processor is not large enough, just do two half batches. Store by placing in 1/2 cup (125ml) or 1 cup (250ml) mason jars, filling to just below the threads of the jar (i.e. leave about 1/2” (1.25cm) of space at the top), and put them in your freezer.
Why this recipe works
By making a paste, you get a base “garlic flavored” element to be used in many recipes and many culinary styles. The added salt and lemon (acid) are natural preservatives, meant to increase shelf-life, but they are in small enough quantities such that they are not really noticeable in terms of flavour. Once defrosted they keep for at least a week in your fridge. The longer you leave them in the fridge the greater the risk of contamination – so use your own judgment and risk tolerance for pushing those biological boundaries. Use the smaller jars if you are not a heavy garlic user. If you and your whole family are garlic junkies (like mine) then you can easily blow through a 250 ml jar in about a week.
The flavor is more mild than garlic, so for any recipe that calls for garlic, just double the amount of paste. Many people make pesto from garlic scapes, which I have done in the past, but I find the paste is a more versatile ingredient. It also keeps better because there’s no nuts or cheese in the mix.
Hard-neck garlic is very easy to grow. Plant in the fall in good soil with good sun, and the following year you will have more scapes than you know what to do with in late spring, and awesome garlic in late summer. If you plant the right amount, between the scapes and the stored heads of garlic, you will not have to buy garlic all year long, and maybe for the rest of your life if you set some aside for planting each fall. With the price of groceries going sky-high with no end in sight, growing garlic and finding clever ways to use all of the garlic scapes makes perfect sense.
Here’s a video of me showing all the steps in this article: