Have you heard of garlic scapes? They’re a delicious little bonus treat you get from growing your own garlic. In this article, we’ll talk more about what are garlic scapes are and how you can use them.
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First off, if you’re reading this & not currently growing your own garlic – we need to talk…
Garlic is a low-maintenance plant that’s perfect for beginner gardeners. It requires virtually no upkeep and is naturally pest resistant.
Plus, homegrown garlic tastes gads better than the junk you buy at the grocery store. So zesty and flavorful – yum!
We cannot encourage you enough to give garlic a try in your garden next year.
Learn more about planting & growing your own garlic here.
A Little Garlic Science
Like all other plants, garlic’s main goal is not to provide you with fruit – it’s to flower & reproduce. To that end, in the early summer, you’ll notice your garlic will start growing a curly stem, with a flower bud attached. That is your garlic attempting to go to seed.
Now, oddly enough, even though garlic produces these flowers & seeds, it’s actually incredibly difficult to grow by that method.
Garlic is pretty exclusively grown by planting cloves. From what I understand, it’s much harder to get the seeds to germinate, so why go through the trouble?
In fact, while your garlic is focusing energy on producing that flower, it’s actually taking energy away from making your garlic bulb.
Hold on a minute – that sounds terrible!
Exactly – so how do we solve this problem? With garlic scapes!
What are Garlic Scapes?
Garlic scapes are the elegant and curly green shoots that emerge from garlic bulbs as they mature. They are the flowering stalks of the garlic plant and serve as a crucial part of its reproductive process. These scapes are long and slender, with a vibrant green color and a characteristic curl. Garlic scapes are typically harvested before they fully mature and develop into flowers, in late spring or early summer.
Are garlic scapes from hardneck or softneck?
One interesting fact about garlic scapes is that they are exclusive to hardneck garlic varieties. Hardneck garlic, distinguished by its woody central stem, produces these delightful curly scapes as part of its natural growth cycle. Softneck garlic, on the other hand, does not typically produce scapes. This unique characteristic of hardneck garlic adds to its allure and culinary appeal. Garlic scapes not only provide a delicious and distinct flavor but also offer an opportunity for gardeners and garlic enthusiasts to enjoy an additional harvest from their hardneck garlic plants. Their presence adds a touch of beauty to the garden and opens up a world of culinary possibilities, making hardneck garlic a favorite among garlic lovers and adventurous cooks.
Read more about hardneck vs softneck varieties here.
Is garlic ready when it flowers?
Garlic is not typically considered ready for harvest when it flowers. In fact, allowing garlic plants to fully flower can redirect energy away from bulb development, resulting in smaller cloves. Garlic flowers, also known as garlic scapes or tops, are the flowering stalks that emerge from the plant. While these flowers possess a delicate and mild garlic flavor, they are often removed before they fully bloom to encourage the plant to focus its energy on bulb growth. The optimal time to harvest garlic is when the lower leaves have turned yellow or brown, indicating that the bulbs have reached maturity. At this stage, the foliage begins to dry out, and the outer wrapper layers of the bulbs become papery. Harvesting garlic at the right time ensures larger, well-developed bulbs with excellent flavor and storage potential.
Should I cut off garlic flowers?
Harvesting garlic flowers, also known as garlic scapes or garlic tops, is a matter of personal preference and culinary experimentation. When left unharvested, garlic plants will produce beautiful and vibrant flower stalks. While these flowers add an attractive touch to the garden, they redirect energy away from bulb development. By harvesting garlic flowers, you encourage the plant to focus its energy on bulb growth, resulting in larger and more robust garlic cloves.
Garlic flowers also possess a delicate and milder garlic flavor, making them a delightful addition to salads, pesto, stir-fries, and other dishes. If you choose to harvest garlic flowers, do so when they are young and tender for the best flavor and texture. However, if you prefer the aesthetic appeal of garlic flowers or want to save some for seed production, allowing them to mature and fully bloom can be a rewarding option.
When should you harvest garlic scapes?
You want to harvest scapes sooner than later, so there’s less energy diverted away from growing a large bulb. You can definitely cut them off as soon as they appear & there would be zero energy lost, but that doesn’t maximize your gains.
There’s a bit of a sweet spot when it comes to harvesting. In most cases, you’ll want to cut off the scapes anytime between “swan neck” formation and one full circle. Not all of them with come all the way around, but you get the general idea.
Usually at that point, they’re still nice and tender, but you’ve also maximized the amount of scapes to harvest. For us in Zone 8, this usually hits around mid-to-late June.
If you leave them on for too long, they will become rough and inedible.
How to Use Garlic Scapes
First and foremost, garlic scapes can be used anywhere you would use garlic. It can be finely diced and put in any dish.
You can also throw them on the grill for a delicious, charred side dish.
Our favorite way to enjoy garlic scapes is lacto-fermented. We’ll have the recipe up soon.
I’ve also heard they make a mean garlic scape pesto – which we’re anxious to try.
Basically, the possibilities are endless!
What part of the garlic scape do you use?
When cooking with garlic scapes, the most commonly used part is the stem – though the entire scape is edible. I do want to note that if the scapes are harvested late, they can become fibrous. Check your scapes & trim off any tough or woody portions at the base of the scape. This is a similar practice to snapping off the ends of asparagus before cooking.
Should garlic scapes be refrigerated?
Garlic scapes can be refrigerated, but it is not always necessary. If you plan to use the scapes within a few days, they can be stored at room temperature, much like other fresh herbs or vegetables. However, if you want to prolong their shelf life, refrigeration is recommended. To store garlic scapes in the refrigerator, trim off the tough top portion and place them in a plastic bag or airtight container. Properly stored, refrigerated garlic scapes can stay fresh for up a month. Keep in mind that refrigeration may slightly soften the texture of the scapes, but their flavor and versatility in cooking will remain intact.
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What do you think? Are you ready to give garlic scapes a try? You’ll be helping your garlic plant & they’re tasty to boot!
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Did you know that garlic scapes were edible? What’s your favorite way to enjoy them? Send us an email or leave a comment below! You can also let us know on our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest pages.
Be sure to check out these helpful articles for more gardening ideas…
- The Complete Guide to Growing Garlic
- How to Harvest, Cure, & Store Garlic
- Grow These Plants Side-by-Side for a Thriving Garden
- How to Grow Onions From Seed
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