One of the more surprising spring crops we harvest here at the Cherry Valley Organics Farm is garlic scapes. While most people think about the bulbous, underground cloves when they think about using garlic in the kitchen, there’s another edible part of the garlic plant with a delicious flavor worth fitting into your dinner plans.
What are garlic scapes?
A garlic scape is a central flowering stalk that develops from the center some types of garlic plants. Eventually, the scape develops tiny bulbils (mini bulb-like structures) at the top, which, when left to their own devices, fall to the ground to generate new garlic plants. However, the production of a scape and the subsequent bulbils, saps a lot of energy from the plant and leads to reduced bulb and clove size beneath the ground. Because of this, most farmers and gardeners remove the developing scapes from the plants soon after they begin to grow.
There are two types of garlic; hardneck and softneck.
- Softneck garlic varieties produce many smaller cloves per head of garlic, and they do not produce a scape, so if you grow softneck garlic, this task doesn’t need to be performed.
- Hardneck garlic produces fewer cloves per head, but the cloves are larger. Hardneck garlic varieties also produce the central flower stalk known as a scape.
How to harvest garlic scapes
At first, most scapes grow straight up out of the plant, but as they continue to grow, they twist into a curlicue. Soon after the curlicue forms, it’s time to remove the scape. Use a sharp pair of scissors or pruners to cut the scape off just above where it emerges from the plant’s center. Do not leave a stump behind. Sometimes the plants are so rigid that you can perform this task with your thumb and forefinger, without relying on a cutting tool. But be careful you don’t accidentally pull the plant out of the ground in the process or leave behind a torn stem or leaf.
How to store garlic scapes
Once the scapes are harvested, put them in a plastic or paper bag in the fridge. This keeps them crisp and prolongs their shelf life. Properly stored garlic scapes can last for several weeks. Do not wash them before you put them in the bag and be sure they are dry or they might develop rot in the bag.
How to prepare garlic scapes
Garlic scapes have a mild, garlic-like flavor, and there are many ways to prepare this delicious late-spring farm treat. Here are some of our favorite ways to cook and eat fresh garlic scapes.
- Turn them into pesto by blending them in a food processor with pine nuts, olive oil, a quick squeeze of lemon, and parmesan cheese. Garlic scape pesto is delicious on pasta and spread on sandwiches. We also love it spread over baked chicken breasts.
- Roast your garlic scapes by coating them with olive oil and a dash of sea salt and roasting them in a 425-degree oven until they’re soft. Delish!
- Grilled garlic scapes can be made by coating the scapes in olive oil and then tossing them onto the grill until they’re tender. A little char is great, but be careful not to burn them.
- Finely chop your garlic scapes and use them raw to garnish stir-fries, soups, and stews.
- Pan fry chopped scapes in a bit of butter and add them to scrambled eggs and omelets.
- Use them in frittatas and quiches, just as you would use onions or scallions.
- You can also pickle garlic scapes.
- Pulse them in a food processor and mix the results into your favorite salad dressing.
- Puree garlic scapes, a bit of fresh oregano, and some fresh parsley, and fold the mixture into softened butter for a garlicy herb butter you won’t soon forget!
There are countless ways to prepare this gourmet spring treat. If you’d like to try our garlic scapes, visit us at the Sewickley Farmer’s Market on Saturday’s from 9 to 1 pm, or stop by the Cherry Valley Organics Farm Market and Cafe in Burgettstown, PA. Subscribers to our Farm Share Program should look for them on the menu selections in mid to late spring.
For more on the delicious vegetables we grow, check out the following articles: