What the Heck are Garlic Scapes and Should I Eat Them?

by: EJ on 06/13/2017

Jenni Blackmore, author of The Food Lover's  Garden: Growing, Cooking, and Eating Well is not afraid to share her stories of garden fails.  Here is the description of her first attempt to grow garlic. 

"Years ago, when I didn’t know any better, I planted garlic in the late spring and was very disappointed with what I dug up later that same summer—one small nubby clove as I remember. :( This was enough to make me think of garlic as some exotic that was near impossible to grow around here, when in fact I simply hadn’t given it half the time it needed to mature. I don’t believe it had even had time to produce scapes and if it had, I certainly didn’t harvest them. No wonder there was little to show for my misguided efforts!"

Since that time, she has discovered not only does garlic grow well in her region, it does well most places and is not a terribly difficult plant to grow, if planted in late fall and allowed to over winter.

Harvesting Garlic Scapes


Harvesting garlic is actually a two part process. In late July, early August the garlic plant, which up until this point will have looked much like a meagre, flowerless daffodil will produce “scapes.” These elegant stems are topped with a delicately pointed seed case which is shaped like a pixie hat. After the scape has reached a height of two to three feet (may be lower with some varieties) the tip, still wearing its cute little pixie hat, will droop and begin to curl, in essence forming a circle about three inches in diameter. Around the time a second coil is forming the scape should be harvested by following the stem down towards its base and cutting it off above the leaves. These scapes are fun to include in flower arrangements but it always seems a shame not to use them all in the kitchen.

How to explain the taste and texture of a garlic scape? Definitely garlicy but milder than the bulbs. They’re more substantial than salad onions and perfect for stir-fries and soups, but the bulk of our scapes usually get made into pesto and from there into pastas, sauces and dips. Garlic scapes are really cool and I think I’d love them for their looks alone, even if they didn’t taste so good.

If the scapes are not harvested the plant will invest all its efforts into producing seed rather than developing bulbs: the scape will uncoil, now standing several feet high, the pixie hat will swell and eventually split open to reveal a sizeable round ball of flowerets, each of which has the potential (in two-three years) to become another garlic bulb. It’s worth leaving one scape unharvested just to watch this process and enjoy the attractive flower head that’s produced.


The Food Lover's  Garden: Growing, Cooking, and Eating Well covers twenty-some popular easy-to-grow vegetables and herbs and takes the budding gardener from planting, growing and harvesting to the preparation of delicious, nutritious, and affordable meals.


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