What's a garlic scape, and what do you do with it? From how to harvest to how to eat, learn all you need to know about how to use fresh garlic scapes.
There are many foods I didn't know about until I moved to Vermont, expanded my vegetable garden, and started paying attention to local foods. Garlic scapes were one of them. You probably won't find them at your typical grocery store, but garlic lovers won't want to miss these tasty bonus vegetables, as their season and availability don't last for long.
What are garlic scapes?
A garlic scape is a shoot that comes out of the center of a hard-neck garlic plant as the bulb is forming. (More on hard-neck vs. soft neck garlic.) This happens in late spring and early summer. The end of a scape is where the flower forms. Except, you want to harvest the garlic scape before that flower blooms. Doing so allows the plant to put its energy back into forming the garlic bulb that you'll soon harvest. In other words, by picking scapes, you're basically getting an extra part of the plant that will give you better garlic in the long run. It's a total win.
Interestingly, scallions and chives also produce scapes, though garlic's are the most popular.
How to harvest
If you're not sure what you're looking for, the scape is thin, round, and has a pointy-looking end. It also forms a curl as it grows. This is unlike the leaves of the plant that grow straight upward. The scape starts to grow as the garlic bulb nears the end of its growing season. This will depend on where you live and your growing season.
If you're not already growing your own garlic, no problem. You'll find scapes at farmers' markets in early summer. They tend to go quick because they're only available for such a limited time.
How to store garlic scapes
You can store garlic scapes in the fridge for up to two weeks, wrapped in a damp paper towel, and placed inside of a bag. If you don't plan to use them within that time, chop them up, spread them out on a baking sheet, and freeze. Then transfer the chopped scapes to a freezer container for long-term storage.
How to use garlic scapes in your cooking
Start by giving the scapes a rinse, then cut off any tough parts. Sometimes the ends can get a little woody or rough, and you don't want to eat them. Next, cut off the blossom end where the flower would have formed. This part is stringy and also not ideal for eating.
Now that they're prepared, there are a ton of ways you could use scapes for cooking.
One of the most common methods is to make a garlic scape pesto. All you need to do is replace the basil or other green with scapes in your favorite pesto recipe. I also leave out garlic cloves as the scapes provide more than enough of that flavor. Toss the pesto with pasta or vegetables, add it to a potato salad or salad dressing, or put it on top of a white pizza. Basically, anywhere you want a burst of fresh garlic flavor.
I prefer to use scapes as a whole ingredient and add them, chopped into stir-fries, cooked with scrambled eggs, or raw in salads.
This week, I tried something different. Instead of chopping them up, I kept the scapes whole and drizzled them with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. I roasted them on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes until they were browned and crunchy. I honestly could have eaten them all right out of the oven. Instead, I put them on top of a cheddar and bacon omelet and cut them up as I ate. I felt a bit lazy just throwing them whole into the oven. Yet, they were amazing just like that.
I love how versatile this bonus vegetable can be. It doesn't matter how you use them, as long as you enjoy them and don't let the brief scape season pass you by.
Here are a few more ideas on how to add them to some of my recipes.
- Saute chopped scapes in butter and toss them into this mint pesto pasta dish
- Cook them alongside asparagus and enjoy them with orange tempeh
- Slice them into large pieces and try them raw in spring rolls
Have you tried garlic scapes? What's your favorite way to use them? Leave me a comment below!
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