Escapades with Scapes for a Blast of Garlicky Flavor

Scape jam over cream cheese is delicious on crackers.

Scape jam over cream cheese is delicious on crackers.

If you grow garlic, you know that the plant sends up a fetching coiled stem with a long-billed flower bud, which, if you leave it on the plant, will bloom and prevent proper formation of an underground bulb. You really have to take the scapes off the plants, and you might as well use them for something. Or perhaps you don’t grow garlic, but see scapes for sale at the farmer’s market or in your CSA box. For an early season blast of fresh garlic flavor, scapes are terrific, or if you don’t want to cook with them, they are gorgeous in a flower arrangement.

Scapes are useful, chopped finely, for everything from omelets to stir fries, spaghetti sauce or chili, anything that calls for garlic.

Each year, I cut mine off and make several batches of scape pesto. Twenty-four scapes produce a pint of pesto; I chop off the tough part of the lower stem and the fibrous bill, keeping the flower bud and chunk it up into three to four inch pieces. I toss those into the food processor, add a dribble of olive oil, and whirl it into a paste that I put into half-pint jars to keep in the freezer. When I run out of garlic cloves in the spring (or when the older bulbs dry out or start sending up little green shoots), I use the scape pesto for garlic flavor wherever I need it. That is my single most useful scape product.

From time to time I experiment though, because I grow about a hundred cloves of garlic every year, and always have plenty of scapes to mess around with. This year the experiment was scape jam. This turns out to be pretty useful stuff as savory jellies and jams, like onion, garlic, and red pepper, often are for appetizers and the cheese and cracker board. A plain block of cream cheese is transformed in a hurry with scape jam; a cheddar cheese sandwich, grilled or not, is delicious with scape jam added. I haven’t done it yet, but I am going to use scape jam as a glaze for chicken as I have used onion jelly in the past.

The original recipe called for liquid pectin, but I had dry-packaged pectin which I just dissolved in water. That slowed me down a little while I tried to figure out how many ounces of liquid pectin came in a bottle.You can make life easier for yourself if you just acquire liquid pectin in the first place.

If you like capsicum heat, consider using a fresh jalapeno or another favorite hot pepper in place of one of the green peppers.

Garkic Scape Jam
Serves: Make four to five half-pints
  • 1 cup garlic scapes, coarsely chopped
  • 2 green peppers, coarsely chopped
  • 5 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 3 ounces liquid pectin
  1. Put the chopped scapes and peppers into a food processor and puree them.
  2. Put the scape and pepper puree into a heavy bottomed cook pot or preserving pan, and add the sugar and vinegar and mix well.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and cook for about ten minutes.
  4. Add the pectin and boil for a minute or until the jam sheets off a spoon.
  5. Put into half-pint jelly jars, and seal.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.