Growing your own garlic? So am I! As the summer begins to warm up, we garlic lovers anxiously watch for the delicate scapes to form on our hard neck garlic. As soon as the slender shoots appear, it is time to harvest the garlic scapes! Keep reading to learn all about harvesting, cutting, and preserving garlic scapes!
- What are garlic scapes?
- What is the life cycle of a hard neck garlic plant?
- How to grow garlic scapes
- When is it time to harvest garlic scapes?
- How to harvest garlic scapes?
- How to cut garlic scapes
- How to use fresh scapes in recipes
- What does a garlic scape taste like?
- How to sauté garlic scapes
- Fresh garden herbs that pair well with scapes
- How to freeze garlic scapes
- How to store garlic scapes
- What are a few ways to preserve garlic scapes?
- Freeze Drying
- Recipes you'll love:
- Thanks for reading!
What are garlic scapes?
Garlic scapes, those graceful and curly green shoots, are nature's bonus gift during the growing season. These vibrant and versatile stems emerge from garlic plants, adding a touch of whimsy to the garden and an explosion of flavor to your dishes.
Considered the 'flower' of the garlic plant, these tender and aromatic scapes hold a wealth of culinary possibilities. From stir-fries to pestos, their unique taste and texture can elevate your recipes to a whole new level.
If you are not growing garlic yourself, check your local farmer's markets beginning in late May through early July to find fresh garlic scapes! If you live in an area with a thriving farmers market, I'm sure you will find them!
What is the life cycle of a hard neck garlic plant?
From a tiny clove to a flavorful bulb, the life cycle of a garlic plant is a slow and steady tale of growth and transformation. It all begins with a little clove, tucked beneath the soil, patiently waiting for its moment to sprout. As spring arrives, a green shoot emerges, reaching towards the sun.
Over time, this shoot develops into a leafy plant, absorbing nutrients from the soil and basking in the warmth of the seasons. As summer approaches, the plant begins to channel its energy into producing garlic scapes – which are a enchanting, curly flower stalk that captivate our attention. These scapes signify a critical phase in the plant's growth, as they signal the maturation of the garlic bulbs below.
When the scapes appear, we as gardeners can decide whether to harvest the scape, which allows the garlic bulb to grow bigger, or grow the scape, which halts the bulb formation and essentially let's the garlic 'go to seed.'
Did you know that scapes actually produce mini garlic bulbs? If you let a scape flower, you can plant the mini bulbs and after two years you'll have garlic!
How to grow garlic scapes
- The bulbs, aka garlic cloves, are planted in the garlic patch, typically in late fall.
- A shoot is sent up and begins to grow leaves but mostly nothing much happens above ground through the middle of winter.
- A leafy plant develops and grows tall, generally as spring approaches.
- The warmer temperatures cause the garlic to focus on maturation of the bulb and roots, rather than leaves.
- A scape forms as a telltale sign that the garlic bulb is close to reaching maturity, usually within 4 weeks.
If the scape is not harvested, the plant will focus energy on growing the scape instead of the garlic bulb. It's never a good idea to skip harvesting the scapes, because then you miss out on eating the scape and your garlic bulbs will be smaller.
When is it time to harvest garlic scapes?
It is typically time to harvest garlic scapes when they are young and tender, before they become too woody or start to straighten out. The exact timing can vary depending on the garlic variety and local growing conditions, but scapes are usually ready for harvest in late spring or early summer.
Keep an eye on your garlic plants as they grow, and once you notice the scapes starting to curl and form loops, it's a good indication that they are ready for harvest. Harvesting scapes at this stage ensures optimal flavor and tenderness, providing you with a delightful culinary experience.
For reference, we are gardening in zone 6B. We planted our garlic in October and the scapes formed late May. I harvested them after about 4 days and then my garlic bulbs will be ready for harvest late June.
How to harvest garlic scapes?
- Wait for the scapes to reach an appropriate stage: Look for scapes that have curled and formed loops but are still young and tender. Avoid waiting too long, as they can become tough and less flavorful.
- Locate the scape's base: Follow the scape from the top where it curls to its base, where it connects to the garlic plant's main stem.
- Firmly hold the base: Using one hand, grasp the base of the scape close to where it emerges from the plant. Ensure you have a good grip to prevent any damage to the plant.
- Gently twist and pull: With a steady but gentle motion, twist the scape in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction while simultaneously pulling it upward. The scape should detach easily from the plant.
- Inspect and trim if necessary: Once harvested, examine the scape for any blemishes or damaged portions. If needed, you can trim the tip or any damaged parts to ensure optimal quality.
- Repeat for other scapes: If your garlic plant has multiple scapes, repeat the process for each one that is ready for harvest.
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How to cut garlic scapes
What is the best way to cut garlic scapes? Cutting the scapes allows them to release their unique garlic flavor while adding texture and visual appeal to your dishes. Follow these steps for the best results:
- Wash the scapes: Start by giving the garlic scapes a gentle rinse under cool water to remove any dirt or debris. Pat them dry with a clean towel.
- Assess the length: Depending on how you plan to use the scapes, consider the desired length for your recipe. If you prefer shorter pieces, you can cut them into smaller segments. Alternatively, you can use them as whole or longer pieces for certain preparations.
- Use sharp kitchen shears or a knife: Kitchen shears are an excellent tool for cutting garlic scapes due to their precision and ease of use. Alternatively, a sharp knife can be used.
- Cut above the bottom bulbous portion: Locate the bottom bulbous portion of the garlic scape, just above where it connects to the main stem. Position your shears or knife slightly above this point.
- Make a clean cut: With a swift and decisive motion, cut through the scape in a smooth, even manner. Aim for a clean cut without crushing or damaging the stem.
- Repeat for other scapes: If you have multiple scapes to cut, repeat the process for each one.
- For finely chopping the scapes into little pieces, I used my herb scissors. They were very sharp and did well cutting the stems as long as I only did a few at a time.
How to use fresh scapes in recipes
One of my favorite ways to use the fresh garlic scapes is in various recipes, such as stir-fries, salads, pestos, or as a flavorful addition to soups and stews. The simplest way I like to eat scapes is a quick sauté with butter or olive oil and a little salt and pepper. I also highly recommend making garlic scape butter or infused avocado mayo and slathering on a thick slice of Sourdough Bread.
What does a garlic scape taste like?
Garlic scapes have a unique and distinct flavor that is reminiscent of garlic but with subtle differences. The taste can be described as a milder and more delicate version of garlic. They possess a pleasant and slightly sweet garlicky flavor, often with hints of freshness and a touch of mild pungency. Some also notice a subtle vegetal or herbal undertone in the taste profile of garlic scapes.
Overall, their flavor offers a pleasant balance of garlic essence without overpowering intensity, making them versatile and enjoyable to incorporate into various culinary creations. It can be used as a herbed butter spread or even in a Pasta Salad dressing like my Lemon Vinaigrette!
How to sauté garlic scapes
Sautéing garlic scapes really brings out their delicate flavors. Start by heating a tablespoon of oil, such as olive oil or vegetable oil, in a skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the trimmed and cut garlic scapes to the pan. Sauté them for about 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they become tender and slightly caramelized. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.
The sautéed garlic scapes can be enjoyed as a side dish, added to pasta, rice, or quinoa, or used as a flavorful topping for pizzas, salads, or omelets. It's definitely one of the easiest ways to enjoy your scapes! The gentle sautéing process enhances their natural sweetness and imparts a delightful aroma to your dishes.
Fresh garden herbs that pair well with scapes
When it comes to pairing fresh herbs with the mild flavor of garlic scapes, there are several options that complement their flavors beautifully. Here are a few herbs that go well with scapes:
- Parsley: The fresh and vibrant taste of parsley pairs wonderfully with garlic scapes. Its mild, slightly peppery flavor adds brightness to dishes featuring scapes.
- Basil: Known for its sweet and aromatic notes, basil is a classic herb that harmonizes with garlic scapes. Together, they create a delightful combination of flavors in various recipes.
- Cilantro: If you enjoy a touch of freshness and a hint of citrus, cilantro is an excellent choice. Its unique taste adds a lively element that complements the flavors of garlic scapes.
- Thyme: With its earthy and slightly floral profile, thyme can enhance the savory qualities of garlic scapes. The combination of these herbs creates a well-rounded and satisfying taste.
- Chives: Chives have a delicate onion-like flavor that pairs exceptionally well with garlic scapes. They add a mild yet distinctive taste to dishes, enhancing the overall savory experience.
- Oregano: For a hint of Mediterranean flair, oregano is a fantastic option. Its aromatic and slightly bitter notes can accentuate the flavors of garlic scapes in Mediterranean-inspired dishes.
How to freeze garlic scapes
If you don't have any tools like a dehydrator or freeze dryer, simply freezing garlic scapes is a the best method to preserve scapes future use. Follow these steps to freeze garlic scapes properly:
1. Wash and trim the scapes: Start by giving the garlic scapes a gentle rinse under cool water to remove any dirt or debris. Trim off any damaged or discolored portions.
2. Cut into desired lengths: Decide on the desired length for your frozen scapes. You can either cut them into smaller segments, typically 1 to 2 inches in length, or leave them as longer pieces depending on your preference.
3. Blanch the scapes: Blanching helps preserve the color, texture, and flavor of the scapes. Bring a pot of water to a boil and prepare an ice bath (a large bowl filled with ice and water) nearby. Submerge the scapes in the boiling water for about 1 to 2 minutes, then quickly transfer them to the ice bath to cool and stop the cooking process.
4. Drain and pat dry: Remove the scapes from the ice bath and drain them thoroughly. Pat them dry with a clean towel or paper towels to remove excess moisture.
5. Pack into freezer-safe containers or bags: Place the blanched and dried garlic scapes into freezer-safe containers or freezer bag. For bags, squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing to minimize freezer burn.
6. Freeze: Place the containers or bags in the freezer, ensuring they are laid flat to allow for easy stacking and to prevent scapes from sticking together. Ideally, freeze them in a single layer initially to prevent clumping, and once frozen, you can stack them more compactly. The scapes can also be added to ice cube trays and topped off with water.
Frozen garlic scapes can be stored in the freezer for several months. They can be used directly from frozen as a delicious addition to recipes like stir-fries, soups, stews, or sautés.
How to store garlic scapes
To store your scape harvest and maintain their freshness, follow these steps:
- Trim the scapes: Remove any damaged or discolored portions from the scapes. Trim the ends if necessary, but it's best to leave them as whole as possible for longer storage. Even if you plan on cutting them into small pieces, unless you are dehydrating or freeze drying, it's important to wait.
- Place in a damp paper towel: Take a damp paper towel or cloth and wrap it around the base of the scapes where they were cut. This helps to keep them hydrated and prevents them from drying out.
- Store in the refrigerator: Transfer the wrapped scapes to a perforated plastic bag or place them in a loosely closed plastic bag. The perforations allow for some airflow while maintaining humidity. Store the scapes in the vegetable crisper drawer or another cool part of your refrigerator.
- Check regularly: Periodically check the scapes for any signs of spoilage or decay. Remove any scapes that show signs of deterioration to prevent them from affecting others.
When stored properly, garlic scapes can stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to a week or slightly longer. However, it's best to use them as soon as possible for the most vibrant flavor and texture. If you want to preserve them for a longer period, consider freezing, pickling, fermenting, or dehydrating the scapes as discussed earlier.
What are a few ways to preserve garlic scapes?
There are several ways to preserve garlic scapes and extend their shelf life. Here are a few popular methods!
Pickling garlic scapes is a fantastic way to preserve their unique flavor while adding tanginess. Prepare a pickling brine using vinegar, water, salt, and optional spices like dill seeds or peppercorns. Trim the scapes to fit into sterilized jars, then pour the hot brine over them. Seal the jars and let them cool before refrigerating. Allow a few weeks for the flavors to develop before enjoying your pickled garlic scapes.
Fermenting garlic scapes creates a delicious probiotic-rich condiment. Trim the scapes and pack them tightly into sterilized jars. Prepare a brine solution using water and salt, and pour it over the scapes, making sure they are fully submerged. Place a fermentation weight or a smaller jar filled with water on top to keep the scapes submerged. Cover the jar loosely and allow it to ferment at room temperature for a week or two, or until desired tanginess is achieved. Once fermented, store the jar in the refrigerator.
Freezing garlic scapes, as mentioned earlier, is an excellent method for preserving their freshness. Blanch the scapes briefly, cool them in an ice bath, drain, and pat dry. Pack them into freezer-safe containers or bags and store them in the freezer for future use. If you have a machine, I would vacuum seal the scapes in small portions. Frozen scapes can be used directly in recipes without the need for thawing.
Dehydrating garlic scapes removes the moisture, concentrating their flavors and allowing for long-term storage. Trim the scapes into desired lengths and lay them in a single layer on dehydrator trays. Dry them at a low temperature (around 110°F or 43°C) until they become crisp and brittle. Alternatively, you can air-dry the scapes by hanging them in a well-ventilated area. Store the dehydrated scapes in an airtight container or grind them into a powder for seasoning purposes.
My absolute FAVORITE way to preserve scapes is by freeze drying in my Harvest Right freeze drying machine. The herbs stay potent and retain all of their nutrients, plus are shelf stable for 25+ years!
Recipes you'll love:
When I harvested our garlic scapes, I immediately used them three ways: freeze drying, dehydrating, and as a flavorful add-in for my Lemon Vinaigrette. They also make a beautiful addition to a jar of homemade pickles! Just pack the scape in with the cucumbers and add a brine.
To learn more about dehydrating, read my post How to Use a Food Dehydrator.
Another way we ate our scapes, which my husband said was his favorite, was in an herbed mayonnaise that we spread on a Sourdough Batard. It was really, really, tasty!
Thanks for reading!
I hope I've encouraged you to grow garlic in your garden this year! Beyond the bulb, the garlic scapes are a delightful addition to any kitchen and garden. From their whimsical appearance to their robust flavor, these curly shoots are such an exciting way to level up your summer garden-to-table recipes!
Explore my fresh recipes and discover more helpful gardening tips right here on the blog. Let's celebrate the wonders of nature and embrace the joy of cooking with fresh, homegrown ingredients.
Happy gardening and happy cooking!