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!).
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
- University of Kentucky: Garlic Scapes 101
- University of Saskatchewan: Garlic
- Oregon State University: Get your garlic on: A primer on planting, growing and harvesting
- Ohio State University: Are Garlic Scapes Edible…YES!