Recipe: Lemon Balm & Garlic Scape Pesto

Did you know the word pesto is simply Italian for pound or crush? Traditionally made with fresh basil, you can make a wide variety of pestos using different herbs and greens. The fundamental ingredients of a typical pesto are: herbs or greens, nuts, cheese, oil, salt and pepper.

For this recipe, we skip the basil and substitute lemon balm and garlic scapes. If you’re a garlic lover you’ll swoon over its spicy taste paired with the light lemony flavor of lemon balm.

This pesto is a great appetizer spread on bread, crackers or vegetables. It can also be used to flavor pasta dishes or served as a topping on fish and seafood. If you plan to serve it with fish, may I suggest amplifying the lemon flavor even more by adding a teaspoon or two of lemon juice.


  • 1 cup garlic scapes, flower head removed and chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cup fresh lemon balm leaves
  • 1/3 cup nuts (e.g. walnuts, pine nuts or sunflower seeds)
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheese (e.g. parmesan or other hard cheese)
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
  • OPTIONAL: 2 teaspoons lemon juice
Chopped scapes ready for the food processor
  1. Prepare the garlic scapes by removing the bulbous flower head and tip. Then chop into 1 inch pieces.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the scapes until they’re broken down (about 20 seconds).
  3. Add the nuts and pulse until combined. You may need to use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the processor bowl.
  4. With the processor running, drizzle in the oil and blend. Scrape down the sides.
  5. Add the lemon balm leaves, cheese, salt and pepper (and lemon juice if desired) and blend until it reaches a desired consistency.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

You can serve this immediately or store for later use. It will keep in the fridge for about 1 week or you can pack into a jar or Tupperware, leaving a little extra head space at the top, and keep it in the freezer for about a year.

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