What to Do with Garlic Scapes

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Garlic scapes are ready to harvest when the stem makes a full curl

Just as the last asparagus comes into the kitchen, garlic scapes take their place as daily garden fare. A delicious blend of light onion and garlic flavor in a vibrant green package, garlic scapes are a seasonal treat that shine in a wide range of recipes, from peppy pesto to delicate egg dishes. They also make a killer risotto.

What Are Garlic Scapes?

Garlic scapes are the curled flower stems that emerge from the centers of hardneck garlic varieties in early summer. Varieties like ‘Music’ that produce large bulbs make hefty scapes, while smaller selections grow smaller scapes. Sometimes softneck varieties will try to produce a flower bud, but the wimpy scapes lack the substance of those from true hardnecks.

I use a sharp knife to cut scapes just as they form a full curl. You also can use the scapes to time your harvest, because garlic is ready to dig 20 days after most scapes are cut. Removing scapes promptly can increase the size of your harvested bulbs by 30 percent and improve their storage potential. Should you miss the scape harvest, so you have garlic in full bloom, cut off the flowers and use them as edible garnishes or cut flowers.

Trimming and Storing Garlic Scapes

As soon as you gather your scapes, use a sharp knife to cut off the pointed ends and set them aside. The flower bud part of the scape is inedibly tough, while the lower, straighter end is much more tender. You can use the tough flower ends to make infused olive oil or vinegar, or simply compost them. After trimming, rinse the scapes in cool water and pat them dry. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.

The flower ends of garlic scapes are too tough to eat

Freezing Garlic Scapes and Pesto

Freezing some of your scapes gives you more time to enjoy them in the kitchen. Garlic scapes are rich in vitamin C and calcium, and blanching them prior to freezing helps preserve these and other nutrients. Blanching also enhances color, and insures that the frozen scapes are absolutely clean. Two minutes of steaming will do it, or you can use the microwave to get cut scapes steaming hot. I like to freeze blanched garlic scapes on cookie sheets so they stay loose when packed into freezer-safe containers.

Blanching garlic scapes before freezing preserves nutrients and color

Another popular option is making and freezing garlic scape pesto, a wonderful topping for pasta, pizza, crackers or bread. Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 cup (150g) garlic scapes, cut into small pieces
  • ½ cup (10g) fresh herbs (parsley, basil, oregano, or dill)
  • ½ cup (70g) roasted cashews or pine nuts
  • ½ cup (120 ml) olive oil
  • ½ cup (50g) grated parmesan or asiago cheese
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt

Puree all ingredients in a food processor. Garlic scape pesto disappears fast, but if you have any left over, you can freeze it.

Garlic scape pesto is ready in minutes

As long as we’re talking food processing, garlic scapes also make a magnificently moist hummus. Cold and creamy potato-garlic scape soup is summer comfort food in a bowl.

The mild flavor of garlic scapes is easily overwhelmed by tomato sauces, but comes through nicely in creamy dishes like risotto, or anything based on eggs. Whether you get your eggs from chickens or chickpeas, garlic scapes are the perfect accent for your morning scramble. From omelettes to souffles, eggs and garlic scapes always play well together.

Savory garlic scape risotto gets a color lift from turmeric

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