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What the Heck Are Garlic Scapes?

What the Heck Are Garlic Scapes?

Spicy, pungent garlic is no stranger to most people’s dinner tables. Used to add flavor to a wide variety of dishes, garlic is one of the most popular flavors on the culinary scene.

But did you know that the bulbous garlic root isn’t the only edible part of the plant? The green shoots, or stems, that grow from those roots, more properly known as “scapes,” are also edible, and are fast becoming a staple on the tables of backyard gardeners and farmers’ market shoppers.

Sprouting out of the ground in late spring, garlic scapes are thin, curly, green stems, resembling grass or wild onions. Growers cut them off to allow more of the plant’s resources to stay focused within the bulb. Young garlic scapes are tender and delicious. They generally have a milder taste than the cloves, similar to shallots or chives. They can be diced up finely and added to various dishes for extra flavor, or sautéed in olive oil and enjoyed on their own.

Curling garlic scape tendrils often include a bulge in the middle. This is the unopened flower of the plant. It is also edible, though not as tender as the rest of the stem. Some people cut it off and discard it, while others simply eat it.

Garlic scapes are a good source of protein, vitamin C, and calcium and, like garlic cloves, can help to prevent heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and cancer. They can also provide immune system support and reduce inflammation.

Here are a few tasty ways to enjoy this flavorful summer treat:

Sautéed Garlic Scapes
Ingredients:
Garlic Scapes
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:
Place as many garlic scapes as you have, or will fit, into a large frying pan. Drizzle with olive oil — just enough to coat each scape without pooling at the bottom of the pan. Cook over medium heat, until the scapes start to brown. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Garlic Scape Pesto
Ingredients:
1 cup diced garlic scapes
1/3 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste

Directions:
Place garlic scapes and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until they form a thick, dry paste. Gradually add oil and pulse until integrated. Using a rubber spatula, scoop the pesto out into a mixing bowl. Add Parmesan, salt, and pepper to taste.

Garlic Scape Pizza
Ingredients:
1 lb. whole wheat pizza dough
1 cup pizza sauce
1 cup mozzarella cheese
Olive oil
6 garlic scapes

Directions:
Allow pizza dough to sit and rise until it stretches easily. Preheat your oven to 450° F. Brush a large cookie sheet with olive oil and fit the dough to the pan. Cover the dough with pizza sauce and top with cheese. Cut the garlic scapes into 3” segments and place evenly over the cheese. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly.

8 comments

1 Jennifer Fisk { 06.15.14 at 8:58 am }

Nelline, if you live where garlic will grow plant your cloves a couple of weeks before freezing. You want the cloves to sprout but not break the soil surface. Put lots of manure and a good covering of straw on your bed . In the spring the shoots will work their way up through the straw. You should also plant your own garlic year to year as it adapts to its own conditions.

2 Jennifer Fisk { 06.15.14 at 8:53 am }

As soon as the snow melts and the Rhubarb has pushed up, I lift the straw on my garlic patch looking for that first green shoot. Then I continue to watch it until sometime in mid June the scapes grow out. Once they make the turn, I harvest them. I make scape pesto and freeze a lot for those times in the winte when I need a reminder of spring. I also cook the stir fry the scapes to go in rice. They can be blanched and frozen.

3 Jaime McLeod { 03.12.12 at 2:05 pm }

They’re probably just wild onions. Garlic scapes are very long, very curly, and very fat. They don’t really look like chives at all. You can eat wild onions, absolutely, as long as you’re not treating your lawn with any harmful chemicals.

4 Ozarknana { 03.11.12 at 10:45 am }

We live at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. In the Spring we have what looks like chives growing EVERYWHERE. Cutting them down with the lawnmower emits a strong “garlic” odor. Are these edible? I often thought they would be good in salads and in cooking but was afraid to eat them!

5 Frutero { 06.02.11 at 12:27 pm }

Onions are generally broken near the ground when flowering stalks appear, and this is supposed to fatten the bulbs. I imagine the same is true of garlic: let the young leaves stay on to build foodstores for the bulb, but as soon as you see signs of flowering, break or cut them off. Garlic, and some onions, form bulbils in the flowerhead, and you don’t want energy diverted there. It is very difficult to get any Allium to bulb in peninsular Florida, however.

6 Michelle { 06.02.11 at 7:34 am }

Great growing hint about cutting the scapes off to send more energy to the bulb. I’ll have to remember that next growing season. I wonder if the same would work for onions?

7 Frutero { 06.01.11 at 10:02 pm }

Nelline, if you are in Zone 9 or warmer, garlic won’t bulb, and it won’t even love long. Try using Tulbaghia (society garlic) scapes. If you live in Zone 8 or cooler, check one of the more extensive catalogs for different varieties of garlic. Generally, hardnecks require more chill than softnecks. Also, call your local agricultural extension and see what they recommend. Plant when the moon is on the decrease, and make sure your plants are getting enough phosphorus.

8 NELLINE Ham { 06.01.11 at 4:46 pm }

I have some garlic plants that do not make big bulbs of garlic can you tell me what i need to do to help them grow?Are you suppose to pull the dirt away from them like you do potatoes?Thanks.NElline.

9 Frutero { 06.01.11 at 11:49 am }

Wild garlic can be any number of native or escaped species, but yes, their scapes are edible. Test for strength. If this species is fairly mild, use it like garlic chives. If it’s stronger, see what amount of cooking brings it to the desired strength. Strong-tasting kinds can also be used to infuse salad oil or simply rubbed on the bowl before making salad. They can also be minced and added to a hot soup or stew after the heat is turned off, about five minutes before serving.

Because true garlic is difficult to grow in peninsular Florida, many people use the leaves and flowers of Tulbaghia (society garlic) the same way. The flavor is both coarser and more fleeting than that of true garlic, and the method of adding it to a hot dish or drawn butter after the heat is off, five to ten minutes before serving, seems to hit the right balance. It also works well in marinades.

10 CA { 06.01.11 at 9:13 am }

We have a lot of wild garlic growing around our house. Does anyone know if the scapes from from these are edible? I’ve eaten the bulb (oniony) in salads and although a bit tough were pretty tasty.

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