Right around this time of year, bundles of garlic scapes abound at farmers’ markets all over, but if you grow hardneck garlic at home, you might notice the same curious tendrils shooting out of your garlic bulbs. The scapes (also called garlic shoots, stems, stalks or spears) are a garden foodie favorite and can be used like a vegetable. The long, edible stems have the consistency of a green bean and the flavor of garlic crossed with green onion.
Harvest them for a bonus edible before your garlic crop matures!
Scapes are the thin, curly, “flowering” stems of hardneck garlic, but they don’t actually flower. If left to mature, the seed pod at the end of the scape will produce small bulbils that can be planted to produce more garlic. However, growing garlic from bulbils takes a considerably longer time than growing garlic from cloves — up to two or three years for a decent-sized bulb.
Like flowers on herbs, scapes will stunt the growth of your garlic bulbs by redirecting energy into the production of its seeds (bulbils). Once you see the exuberantly loopy shoot forming in late spring or early summer, snip off the entire stem to send the energy back into the bulb.
Just like a fresh and verdant version of garlic, scapes are mild and delicious. They can be brushed with olive oil and grilled like asparagus spears; minced into salsa, guacamole, marinades and dressings; chopped into soups, salads, sautes and stir-fries; blended into pesto, hummus and sauces; mixed into cream cheese and butter for an extra kick; and used in place of garlic or onion, cooked or raw, in many different dishes. You can even pickle them!
What’s your favorite way to use garlic scapes?