I went to the Raleigh farmers’ market in hopes to find cucamelons (the hunt continues…), but instead, I brought home garlic scapes.

I’m not even mad.

Up until this point I’d never even *seen* scapes in real life. I’m telling you, moving to Raleigh has opened me up to a whole new world of what I like to call “unicorn produce” and it’s nothing short of amazing. These lovely scapes are from a family-owned farm from Selma, NC, Kidd Farm. They’re automatically a winner in my books because a) they practice sustainable agriculture and b) they specialize in elephant garlic. They’ve been growing the stuff for the last 15 years and are one of very few farms in the area that grow it. Truth be told, the ginormous bulbs of elephant garlic are what caught my attention at the stand in the first place and, as I approached, I noticed the scapes. I was so excited about the scapes that I forgot to buy elephant garlic. (Womp womp.) Until next time.

Given my lack of experience with garlic scapes, I had no plan for them until I was 3/4 of the way home and it hit me: PESTO.

So how different is this from the regular ol’ pesto I trust and love?

If you love pesto as much as I do, you’re probably thinking, “Don’t mess with a good thing!” <— In most cases, I’m a huge proponent of this idea. But sometimes, when you mess with a good thing, you get MORE GOOD THINGS. And the world can’t deny more good things, amirite?

Your typical pesto will have basil, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, parmesan, and pine nuts. This recipe has most of this stuff. All I did was skip the garlic, because hi, garlic scapes; I also swapped the pine nuts for toasted raw sunflower seeds because they’re way less expensive, so it’s a cost efficient way to make pesto all day every day, and also — it just works. You still get that nutty flavor that makes pesto oh-so-toothsome.

How do you prepare garlic scapes?

Chop off the bulbs, discard them, wash the scapes, and choppity-chop. That’s really about it. It took me some research to figure out if you’re supposed to use the bulb or not, but after enough searching, I learned that the bulb doesn’t have a great texture. I was a little saddened by this since they look super cool, but I did open them up to take a look.

They remind me of hops.

Did you make this recipe? Snap a pic and tag me on Instagram: @Killing__Thyme /#killingthyme. For more delish eats, follow me on INSTAGRAM + PINTEREST.

Garlic Scape Pesto

This garlicky and herbaceous pesto puts garlic scapes to great use. Slather this stuff on pizzas and sandwiches, or pair it with meats, veggies, or pasta!
Author Killing Thyme


  • 1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds lightly toasted
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped garlic scapes bulbs discarded
  • 1 cup fresh basil roughly chopped
  • Juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • Cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese plus more, if desired
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil


Toasting your sunflower seeds.

  • Position a small dry pan over very low heat. Add the sunflower seeds and lightly toast them, stirring often, until they begin to turn a golden color — about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Garlic Scape Pesto.

  • Place the sunflower seeds, garlic scapes, basil, lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper in a food processor or blender (if using a high-powered blender, take it slow and make sure you don't completely puree the ingredients). Pulse a few times and then, with the processor running on low, gradually add the olive oil. Continue until the mixture is thoroughly blended but still had some texture to it.
  • Taste, and adjust salt/pepper to your preference, if necessary.
  • Transfer the pesto to a jar or container. Add the grated parmesan and stir until completely mixed in.
  • If you want a looser consistency, you can add a bit more olive oil.
  • Seal and refrigerate for up to a week, or freeze for up to three months.
  • Slather it over your fave pizzas, sandwiches, meats, or add to pasta long with a bit of starchy pasta water for a creamy and herbaceous sauce! Or, of course, grab a cracker and just dig in :)

Garlic Scape Pesto | Killing Thyme


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  • diversivore
    June 30, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    First of all – love garlic scapes, love pesto, love your photos, and love pretty much everything you’re doing ’round here. KEEP IT UP.

    Second, when it comes to the whole ‘don’t mess with a good thing’ idea, I agree in one sense, but I also tend to have a very different outlook. While there’s a lot to be said for specific recipes with great connections to certain ingredients or regions, those tried and true originals will always shine, regardless of what anybody might do to dumb them down or mindlessly swap out ingredients. With that in mind, I prefer to think of variations like this not as replacements, but as completely separate products inspired by the technique or general concept of the original. I find it hard to believe that anyone in their right mind would think that you were somehow trying to supplant pesto Genovese with this. Instead, you’re taking the fantastic concept of the original (greens, garlic, nuts/seeds, oil) and adapting it to other places, ingredients, palates and flavours. That’s how good food is borne. As far as I’m concerned, food like this only enhances and contributes to the status of the original by widening its influence. So good on ya.


  • Colleen Milne
    June 30, 2017 at 10:43 am

    I love your term “unicorn produce”! It’s so much fun to try different ingredients in pesto, and I never thought about garlic scapes, but it sounds absolutely yummy, and a must try. :-)

    • Killing Thyme
      June 30, 2017 at 10:55 am

      Haha, thanks Colleen! Some produce is just so rare and pretty, so the term seems fitting :) Let me know if you do try this pesto out, or any garlic scape recipes for that matter. They’re fabulous! And the pesto was ridiculous. I couldn’t stop spreading it on crackers and eating it over the counter. Turned into a bad snacking habit for a fay days.

  • Natalie Browne
    June 23, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    Garlic Scape Pesto is the BEST!! I love that you used sunflower seeds in place of pine nuts, too. So much more affordable and equally tasty. Good luck with your cucamelon hunt :)

    • Killing Thyme
      June 23, 2017 at 6:53 pm

      YES! I mean, I do love pine nuts. They’re delicious and add so much, but I can never justify the price. I can’t support that kind of nonsense. Haha. Sunflower seeds are fabulously nutty though, so it works! And thank you! If it wasn’t frowned upon to bring produce over the border, I’d be in your garden picking some of yours right now ;D

  • Flavour and Savour
    June 23, 2017 at 11:35 am

    Denis cut our scapes yesterday. We planted 99 garlic bulbs in October, so I have a LOT of scapes to deal with! Pesto is a great way to use them up. Great recipe!

    • Killing Thyme
      June 23, 2017 at 6:52 pm

      Oh my goodness, I am super jealous of your abundance of garlic!

  • Dawn @ Girl Heart Food
    June 23, 2017 at 8:05 am

    I’m definitely a huge fan of pesto too and could probably (but don’t) eat right out of the jar. I’ve never seen garlic scapes before in person, but probably cause I wasn’t on the lookout. Next time I’m in the market or grocery, I’ll have to keep an eye out for so I can make this one. Love me some garlic so this one is right up my alley :)

    • Killing Thyme
      June 23, 2017 at 6:49 pm

      Right? Whenever I open the jar, I take a big whiff (I do the same with horseradish, haha). This was my first time seeing garlic scapes in person too, so I was very excited. They’re beautiful! I hope you can find some :)


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