How to Harvest and use Garlic Scapes
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Garlic scapes are kind of like a thick garlicky chive. They pop up out of your garlic plants before the actual garlic is ready to bloom, then curl around in a circle, letting you know they are ready. More mild than actual garlic, but stronger than chives, scapes are an amazing bonus harvest that can have you tasting garlic early in the summer season! But when do you harvest, and how do you use garlic scapes? This article will share a variety of ways to add these fun spicy shoots to your menu.
What are garlic scapes?
First, lets clarify what garlic scapes are so that you know when to harvest them. Scapes are a semi-firm, cylindrical shoot that comes out of the middle of your garlic plant once it reaches close to full height. At the top of the scape is the little bulb that would become a flower if you let it continue growing. They are not the leaves of the plant – those are flat and like wide grass. Scapes will grow straight up from the plant, and then begin to grow. When harvested, they look a little bit like a long, curly green bean.
When do you harvest garlic scapes?
It is actually beneficial for your garlic plants to harvest the scapes. This sends a message to the plant to focus on the growth of the garlic bulb down below the surface, instead of on flowering. Watch for scapes as the green plant above the grown gets close to full height (anywhere from 12-24″ tall). Once the leaves are done growing, the plant will then send out its scape.
Wait for the scape to curl at least until it is facing back down to the ground; many varieties will start to get fairly thick and hard at this point, while others will fully curl around and make a spiral. Test a few scapes to see if they are ready. You want them to be firm, but snappable, like a green bean.
How do you harvest garlic scapes?
You’ll harvest the garlic scape by cutting or snapping the scape close to where it comes out of the green of the garlic plant. You can use garden shears or scissors (this is much faster than doing by hand), but sometimes the scape will also just easily snap when you bend it.
If you have a large garlic harvest you may end up with a lot of scapes all at once. That’s great if you want to make pesto! But if you are not going to use them all at once, store harvested garlic scapes in a bag in your refrigerator; they will keep for a long time!
What can you make with garlic scapes?
First, a little bit about the flavor and texture of garlic scapes. I describe the flavor of a scape as “garlic light.” It has an unmistakable garlic flavor, but it is more mild in its heat. Some compare them to scallions or chives, but the garlic flavor wins out over the more onion-like flavor of these relatives.
Second, let’s talk about the texture of a scape. It is really not soft enough to just chop up and sprinkle over your food as garnish. It is firm, and needs a little bit of processing or cooking to soften up and become friendly to eating.
Here are 5 ideas for eating and cooking with garlic scapes:
- Make Garlic Scape Pesto – whether you combine your garlic scapes with basil or just keep it straightforward with the scapes themselves, pesto is an awesome use when you have a big garlic scape harvest. It can then be used on pasta, pizza, or even frozen into cubes that you can pop into winter stews and soups.
- Stir fry – for a nice garlicky flavor in your favorite veggie stir fry, chop the garlic scapes much like you would scallions and add them to the dish near the end to get lightly browned.
- Eggs – I love adding chopped garlic scapes into omelets, frittatas, or quiche. It can help to lightly saute them first to make them a little bit softer. They add a beautiful green touch, while also lending their light garlic flavor to the dish.
- Substitute for shallots or garlic in dressings and marinades- making your own homemade dressing leads to soooo much fresh flavor, and you can substitute garlic scapes in most recipes that call for shallots or garlic. We love our green goddess dressing recipe and you can substitute 2 garlic scapes chopped for the one clove of garlic. In a meat marinade, scapes add beautiful flavor!
- Pickle them. Last but not least, pickled garlic scapes are a fun way to preserve the scapes for future use. Pickling the scapes helps to mellow the garlic flavor, then you can use them as a topping on sandwiches, burgers, and more!