Recently, my mom and I took a little road trip around the countryside in Northern Connecticut. When we happened across The Garlic Farm in West Granby, we knew we had to pull in and investigate. Here’s a photo tour of the farm, a bunch of info on garlic scapes (including how to cook them), plus a super simple recipe for some of the most garlicky, mouthwatering pesto you’ve ever had.
Now, it’s going to sound silly, but garlic is one of those things that kind of seems like it just…you know…appears. I’ve never really given much thought to the plant that it comes fromâ€”or the idea that there might be whole farms dedicated to growing the stuff.
I certainly had no idea what a garlic scape was or what to do with it in the kitchen.
A basket of garlic scapes at The Garlic Farm in West Granby, CT
Wait, let me back up and set the scene.
How can you resist this sign?
So Mom and I were driving along. We had just come from Wilhelm Farmstand. I’m not sure how any garlic-lover could pass this sign without stopping.
This sign cinched it for us, though. Mom and I looked at each other, both with the same thought: What the heck is a scape?
We turned down the dirt road, and made our way to the barn which was nestled at the end of two swaths of tall, arching trees.
What is a garlic scape, anyways?
A garlic scape, as it turns out, is a flowering stalk that shoots wildly off a garlic plant.
It’s long and thin, and twists into a whimsical curly-que.
We parked and made a beeline for the rows of green baskets outside.
They were overflowing with garlic scapes. As we got closer to the barn, there was just the mildest hint of fresh garlic on the breeze. My mouth started to water just a little and I immediately wondered: “How do I cook these things, because they must be amazing?”
Garlic farmers cut the scape off so that the garlic plant can concentrate on making the garlic bulb bigger.
The scape itself looks kind of like a coiled, green rubber tube.
If left on the plant, the end will eventually explode into a pretty purple flower. You can see the beginning of the flower bulging here:
When you cut into them, they kind of have the consistency of fresh, young asparagus. They have a fabulous and green garlicky scent.
Inside the barn at The Garlic Farm
The farm itself is in a charming, converted tobacco barn.
There are tobacco barns all over this part of Connecticut. Quite literally, they’re barns in which tobacco leaves are hung to dry. Today, the barn’s rafters are used to hang and dry The Garlic Farm’s impressive harvest of organic garlic.
Tobacco barns are really neat and can be surprisingly bright inside, since every other slat on the barn is hinged and opens. (This was originally to help get enough air to the tobacco leaves.)
A hinged slat on The Garlic Farm’s barn
Inside, they sell a handful of seasonal, native produce. In fact, the farm is having a tomato tasting in early August. They’ll have about a dozen varieties of tomatoes to sample.
(The Garlic Farm is located at 76 Simsbury Road in West Granby, Connecticut. For more information, visit their website or call 860-653-0291.)
As delicious as the strawberries looked, though, we were there for the garlic scapes.
Into the garlic fields!
I took a walk out to the garlic field, to take a peek at the plants firsthand.
As I got closer, I could see the garlic scapes twirling around.
Here’s one up close:
On the edge of the field, we spotted a few Swallowtail butterflies, stopping for a mineral-rich, muddy drink.
How to cook with garlic scapes
As it turns out, the good folks at The Garlic Farm not only grow and sell organic garlic and garlic scapes, they do a fair amount of education about them, too. All their garlic is grown from seed and is organic.
(Gary Cirullo, the owner, signed the Connecticut NOFA pledge, which means he’s committed to running his farm with sound economic and ecologic principles.)
Mom and I spent a fair amount of time talking to Nancy Dunn, who was there minding the scapes.
Garlic scapes, she told us, are really very versatile. You can grind them up into pesto, grill them like asparagus, saute them and serve them in salads or sides, and even eat them raw. You can also blanche and freeze them. (Not to mention keep them fresh in water *and* have a pretty striking centerpiece for your dinner table.)
Hmmm. Pesto, eh? My wheels started to turn. We bagged up a half-a-pound and headed home.
Don’t miss the garlic scapes!
The Garlic Farm will be running its Garlic Scape Weekend for one last weekend, on June 20-21. If you’re in the area, definitely swing by. (For more information, visit their website or call 860-653-0291.)
Phew! That concludes today’s lesson on garlic scapes. On to the pesto!
How to make garlic scape-based pesto
This is some of the garlic-iest stuff I’ve ever had in my life. It’s packed with fresh garlic flavor that’s tempered by generous amounts of grated Parmesan and high-quality extra virgin olive oil.
A handful of pine nuts deepens the flavor and adds a little, well, nuttiness.
A little goes a long way. Toss it in pasta. Slather it on sandwiches. Use it as a dip for raw veggies. Thin it out with more olive oil and a little lemon juice for a fabulous impromptu salad dressing. In short, treat it like regular pesto. It won’t disappoint.
Garlic Scape Pesto
1/2 lb. garlic scapes (about 15 scapes)
3/4 cup grated parmesan
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
juice from half a lemon
Makes about 2 1/2 cups
Wash and chop the garlic scapes
Grab your garlic scapes. (Say that 10 times fast.)
Rinse them well under cold water and towel them dry.
Chop them up roughly, so they fit better in the bowl of your food processor.
Grind the garlic scape pesto
Put the scapes into the bowl of your food processor.
Toss in the Parmesan.
Add the pine nuts.
Cap your food processor and pulse it a handful of times.
You want the ingredients to be roughly chopped, like this:
With your food processor running on low, drizzle in the olive oil.
Process the pesto until it’s thick, creamy, and fairly smooth, like this:
Squeeze in your lemon. (Traditional pestos don’t include lemon, but I’m glad I added it. It gave the pesto a nice brightness. Add it or leave it out…totally your call.)
Your finished pesto should be able to hold its own on a fork. (If you like your pesto thinner, add more olive oil.)
Scrape the pesto out into a bowl. Garnish with pine nuts, if you like.
The pesto should keep for about a month in the fridge, well wrapped. Like all pesto, it will separate. Just give it a stir before serving.