A friend of mine, Anne, works for the Ottawa-Carleton Association for Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OCAPDD) and ever since I've known her she has always spoken so fondly of the organization. The OCAPDD works with developmentally disabled children and adults in the Ottawa-area with the goal of helping them integrate into the community by way of assisted lodging, education and access to employment.
The OCAPDD has many noteworthy endeavours, but the one that interested me the most was their Silver Spring Farm Agricultural Project. Silver Spring Farm, located in the west end of Ottawa at the intersection of Richmond and Baseline Roads, is 100% volunteer based. It has been around for over 50 years, but most recently its focus has been pesticide-free garlic farming. Every fall, volunteers plant 40,000 bulbs of garlic. In mid-July the garlic is harvested, dried, braided and, by August long weekend, it is sold to the public with 100% of the profits being used in support of adults with developmental disabilities.
This time of year, Silver Spring Farm also harvests and sells garlic scapes. The scapes, which have become somewhat of a delicacy, are the soft, light green coloured stems or "flower stalks" of certain garlic varieties. Because they are only around for a few weeks each year — usually late-June to early-July — they are highly sought after. Generally, the scapes are trimmed off, since leaving them in place diverts the plant's strength away from forming a hearty bulb of garlic.
Scapes can be sweet or pungent, but generally they have a mild garlicky taste. Like garlic, they boast numerous health benefits. The sulphur compounds in garlic scapes boost glutathione, a powerful antioxidant, which protects the body against oxidative stress. They are also said to promote cardiovascular health and may help prevent cancer and osteoarthritis.
This weekend I saw Anne at a friend's party and she gave me a sizeable bag of scapes. From the moment I received this generous gift, I have been dreaming up ways to use them. I have already sautéed some scapes with broccoli. I might try grilling or pickling them. Since I have so many, they will be used as the base, alongside onion, in most of my cooking for the next week or so. I also plan on puréeing a whole bunch in my blender and then freezing the purée in ice cube trays. The frozen scapes cubes can be used later on in soups, stews, sauces, you name it!
Today, I made a delicious summer pesto, which I subsequently mixed with quinoa pasta noodles, fresh local kale and edamame. The pesto pairs nicely with pasta, but it could also be used on bread or crackers, modified into a salad dressing, or tossed together with sautéed or roasted vegetables. I do warn you though, scapes can be potent and if you don't tolerate raw garlic, you might want to steam your scapes for about 3 minutes (just enough to soften them up a bit) prior to making your pesto. However, if you are a garlic lover like me, I think this recipe will be right up your alley!
GARLIC SCAPE PESTO
Makes about 1.5 cups ~ dairy free & gluten free
10-12 large garlic scapes, rough chopped
1/2 cup parsley, tightly packed
1/2 cup (approximately 20) brazil nuts
1 tablespoon miso paste (I used chickpea miso), optional
3/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
Sea salt & cracked black pepper
Pulse the garlic scapes, parsley, brazil nuts, miso, lemon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a food processor until very finely chopped. While your food processor is still running, slowly pour the oil through the opening. Taste a little bit of your pesto, and then re-season with salt and pepper, if necessary.
The pesto keeps in the fridge, sealed, for 1 week or frozen for about a month.
The OCAPDD is always looking for volunteers. If you are interested in getting involved with the organization, check out its volunteer page. You can also visit the farm this week for fresh scapes and rhubarb, or stop by in August following the garlic harvest.