Harvesting garlic scapes

To harvest garlic scapes is one of the annual garden milestones I most look forward to. Here’s when and how to cut your garlic scapes for the healthiest plants (and most delicious scapes!).

Garlic scapes and dill| home for the harvest gardening blog - harvesting garlic scapes: a fresh spring treat from the garden

What are garlic scapes?

Garlic scapes are the flower stalks and buds of garlic plants. Each garlic clove planted in the ground will send up one stalk. Leaves form around the central stalk. After the stalk becomes established, a closed flower bud forms at the end of the stalk. This bud, and the curly stem to which it is attached, is referred to as a garlic scape.

Garlic varieties are divided into two groups – hardneck garlic and softneck garlic. You can order garlic bulbs of lots of different varieties, but if you want scapes, make sure to order a hardneck garlic variety. These garlic shoots are extremely versatile and can be used in stir-fries, soups, salads and more – not to mention they look absolutely beautiful!

Organic garlic scape - learn what garlic scapes are! From home for the harvest #garlic #organicgarlic #garlicscapes #organicgardening

Tips for harvesting garlic scapes

Summer gardens are full of delightful ingredients, including garlic scapes and tender green onions. Fresh garlic scapes are harvested in June in our area. Cutting off the scapes lets the garlic put in more attention into the roots (the garlic bulb you’ll be harvesting later). But the scapes don’t have to be thrown out! They are SO delicious and should be savored.

Garlic scapes growing in backyard raised bed garden
Tall garlic scapes in the backyard raised beds – ready for harvest!

How to cut fresh garlic scapes

The time to cut fresh garlic scapes is when the scape stalk grows higher than the leaves. The scape should be starting to curl. Cutting garlic scapes at this point yields young tender stems and encourages the plant to put its energy into bulb formation instead of flowering.

To cut a garlic scape, follow the stem of the scape down to where it meets the leaves of the plant. Use clean and sharp scissors to cut scape stalk off the plant. Remove as much of the scape stalk as you can without removing any leaves. I like to leave about an inch of stalk on the plant above the highest leaf, just to ensure no leaves are harmed.

Pickling garlic scapes | home for the harvest gardening blog

Leaving scapes on the garlic plant

So what happens to garlic plants if the scapes aren’t harvested? If you don’t pick the garlic scapes while they are thin (as pictured), they will fatten up and produce tiny little garlic cloves.

You can plant these individual bulbils to produce a new garlic plant. Although the bulbils are too small to produce a full-sized bulb of garlic next year, with a couple of years in the ground, they may well produce their own heads of garlic.

Cooking with garlic scapes

The scapes have a garlic-ey flavor and can be eaten fresh (if you dare), fried in butter, bar-be-cue-d, or pickled (see the photo of pickled garlic scapes above). They can be used in just about any recipe that requires garlic. Just chop them up and add to your taste.

My favorite way to enjoy harvested garlic scapes is to roast them with olive oil and have them as their own side dish. Cooking them takes out some of the sharp garlicky bite and makes them more like a spring vegetable (almost like garlicky asparagus). Here are some more ideas:

  • grilled garlic scapes
  • garlic scape pesto
  • pickled garlic scapes

Garlic scapes are one of spring’s true delicacies. If you’ve never tried them before, this is the year. They’re only available for a few precious weeks, so take advantage of the season. Note that you may have to go to your local farmers market to find them if you don’t grow them yourself.

Pickled garlic scapes| home for the harvest gardening blog

How to grow garlic scapes

If you’re interested in growing your own garlic scapes in general, you just need to learn how to grow your own garlic! Check out this tutorial about how to grow garlic to learn. Just remember, to get scapes, you’ll need to choose a hardneck type.


Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a quintessential Canadian gardener. An engineer by trade, she tends to an ever-expanding collection of plants. In her world, laughter blooms as freely as her flowers, and every plant is raised with a dash of Canadian grit.

Mary Jane is a certified Master Gardener and also holds a Permaculture Design Certificate. She's also a proud mom of three, teaching her little sprouts the crucial difference between a garden friend and foe.

When she's not playing in the dirt, Mary Jane revels in her love for Taylor Swift, Gilmore Girls, ice hockey, and the surprisingly soothing sounds of bluegrass covers of classic hip-hop songs. She invites you to join her garden party, a place where you can share in the joy of growing and where every day is a new opportunity to find the perfect spot for yet another plant.

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