This pesto right here, and the bounty of fresh produce currently at the farmers’ market is one of the reasons why I’m holding out hope that this summer will be awesome. So far, we’ve had a kind of summer my mom calls wishy-washy, with emphasis on the washy. It’s rained regularly the past couple of weekends – it feels like that’s a thing now.
A few years ago, we started this tradition of going to our local farmers’ market on rainy summer weekend mornings, it’s just a block away. We’d try spontaneity and make lunch or dinner entirely from the items we bought.
We slept in one wet morning a couple of weekends ago, then still in our pajama bottoms, strolled over to the market to pick up whatever called to us, and then we made lunch.
We got those new potatoes with delicate skin, tomatoes, red onions, strawberries and nectarines. We also got some fragrant fresh basil and curly green tangles of flowering garlic stalks to make this basil garlic scape pesto.
We started buying garlic scapes last summer; it was our first time trying them, having been intrigued for a while.
A woman next to me was grabbing them by the handful, trying to jam bunches of the bendy unwieldy stalks into her mesh produce bag. She looks forward to them all season, she told the couple next to us.
Garlic scapes are growing flower stalks that are cut from (hardneck) garlic bulbs to boost the bulb’s quality. They have a subtler garlicky flavour, and taste fresh and mild. They can be used the same way you’d use garlic or scallions.
The woman from the market adds them to salads, pickles them and make large batches of pesto and freezes it for use all year round. This pesto is basically an adaptation of her recipe as told to the couple next to us. I eavesdropped. It’s a fresh and fragrant pesto; it tastes garlicky, infused with the sweet aromatic essence of basil, the nuts round things up for a huge umami burst. I love a bit of heat in my pesto because I think it hones the subtle peppery flavour in the basil – but you don’t have to add pepper.
In the kitchen, we tossed our potatoes lightly in olive oil and salt before roasting them. The pesto was easy, we just dumped everything in the food processor and gave it a whirl. With the tomatoes, onions, strawberries and nectarines, we cobbled together a little salad by drizzling it all together in olive oil and lemon with a pinch of salt and pepper. And when the potatoes were done, we tossed them in generous dollops of pesto, and in no time, we’d come up with a simple and delicious seasonal feast, made with ingredients from our little West End farmers’ market.
I should mention that this pesto is quite pungent; so if you’re not a fan of garlic, you should probably grill or roast the scapes first for a sweeter and mellower taste. You could also use more basil and a little less garlic scapes.
This is a versatile and handy pesto to keep around, it’d have been amazing in this pasta! It’ll give a huge flavourful boost to avocado toast or spread on sandwiches. I can’t imagine how delicious it’ll be mixed into some hummus or salsa!
- 1 1/4 cup chopped garlic scapes
- 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
- 1/2 cup toasted almonds
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 3/4 - 1 cup olive oil, plus more to cover pesto for storing
- Pulse garlic scapes in a food processor for about 30 seconds
- Add walnuts and almonds and pulse until you get a crumbly paste – scrape down the sides of the bowl as you go
- Add basil, lemon juice, pepper flakes and salt, and process on high to form a coarse paste
- While food processor is running, drizzle olive oil through the feed tube
- Process well to combine and make pesto as coarse or as smooth as you prefer
- Check seasoning by tasting and adjust as desired