A scape is an immature garlic flower -- a long, thin shoot that grows from the garlic plant this time of year. They are meant to be picked and eaten, and doing so helps ensure bigger, more hearty garlic bulbs come harvest. Scapes, like garlic, shallots and onions, are a member of the Allium family. They have a milder, sweeter, more delicate flavor than garlic, and can be used like a traditional garlic clove in all kinds of dishes.
I've only cooked with scapes once before, so I wanted to experiment this year. I decided to make Dorie Greenspan's Garlic Scape Pesto, and paired it with sauteed shrimp, minced scapes and fresh spring peas. I plated the shrimp and pesto atop butter lettuce from my garden and mixed in some additional minced raw scapes.
I can only describe this meal as a plate of springtime. Light, clean and as fresh as it gets, it was like a long draw of cold lemonade on a sticky summer afternoon. I added a few teaspoons of fresh lemon juice and some cracked black pepper to the pesto, for brightness. The almonds and parmigiano reggiano add body and depth without cutting the sharp tang of the scapes. I also cut the olive oil by 2 T. to 1/3 cup. We paired the dish with a crisp pinot grigio.
Scapes are inexpensive, running about $1 for a bundle of 5-6. I bought two bunches from Eastern Market and picked about eight from my garden, and still have a few left for other dishes.
If you run across a tangle of garlic scapes this June, pick them up, chop 'em up, green stems and all, and use them in salads, sautes, pastas, eggs or even soups. They are a fun alternative to traditional garlic cloves.