The Great Garlic Scape

by Erin Enouen

IMG_3306Garlic planting stock will be available for pre-order in August.

Hardneck varieties, such as Music and German Extra Hardy, are a pleasure to grow, not only for the large, easy-to-peel cloves, but also because they offer the grower a 2-for-one deal--both a garlic head and a garlic scape from one plant!


Scapes emerge from the garlic plant about 3-4 weeks before the bulbs are ready to be harvested. They look like a flower stem and bud emerging from the center of the green leaves. Scapes are similar to a flower bud, but instead of seeds they produce bulbils at maturity. Bulbils are similar to cloves of garlic. They are clones of the parent plant, and are one way garlic can reproduce. If allowed to mature, bulbils can be planted like seed garlic, but when growing garlic from bulbils it takes 2-3 years from the original planting date to get a full sized head a garlic. While growing garlic from the bulbil can be a great way to increase the number of bulbs you can reproduce from one crop over the years, cutting the scapes off before the bulbils actually form leads to bigger heads of garlic in your crop.


IMG_3302 Cutting young and tender scapes where they emerge from the garlic greens.

The formation of the bulbils takes a bit of energy away from the final formation of the garlic head below the ground. To have the best sized garlic bulbs at harvest time, the scapes should be removed from the plant soon after they appear.  Once the scapes emerge, cut or pluck them off when they begin the curl. Cut  or pluck them right where they emerge from the garlic greens, see top photo, left.

Scapes that are harvested promptly are tender and perfect for several preparations. If left on the plant for more than week or so, they can become a bit woody at the base and at the tip, so they might need trimmed. Otherwise, you can use the entire scape and stem.


IMG_3317 A basket of scapes, ready for many kitchen uses.

Use scapes like garlic, mince them, fry them, blend them, or roast them! Scapes are milder than a clove of garlic, so you might need more volume of them for a super garlicky kick, or you might find that their gentle garlic essence is perfect in certain preparations.

Garlic Scape Pesto: Since scapes appear often before basil is mature enough to harvest, make a super garlic scape paste with scapes, walnuts, olive oil and salt. For the best texture, place scapes in a food processor alone and process until completely pasty and green. Then add pulverized walnuts, a generous amount of olive oil and salt. You can also prepare pesto with basil, parsley, arugula, or any mix of fresh spring herbs and greens.

Charred Scapes: Cook scapes like string beans! Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy cast iron skillet. Add a couple handfuls of fresh scapes, be sure it is just enough so they are in a single layer. Add any desired seasoning at this point: red pepper flakes, cajun seasonings, more garlic, etc. Let cook, stirring gently until lightly charred on all sides.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of water to the pan, cover and turn heat down. Let steam just a bit until the scapes are tender. Excellent served with stir-fried greens over rice.

Garlic Scape Tempura: Making vegetable tempura is a bit involved, but if you do it with scapes it is totally worth it! Plus, it makes a great addition to sushi rolls. Just substitute scapes for any vegetable in your tempura recipe.

Pickled Scapes: Whether your preferred pickle method is vinegar or a salt brine, try a batch of scapes! Use the most tender for best results. Again, treat like green beans. Great with dill and peppercorns.

Garlic Infused Vinegar: A great use for any scapes that have gotten tough or woody. Thinly slice 1 cup of scapes. Place into a clean, dry quart jar and add two cups of apple cider vinegar and 1-2 dried hot chilies. Place lid on jar and shake well. Store in a dark, cool spot such as a cupboard or pantry for 6 weeks, shaking once every 1-3 days. After 6 weeks, strain vinegar into a clean container. A great seasoning for dressings and marinades.

***We will have our seed garlic ready for purchase in August!***