Garlic scapes appear for a short time and are an early crop offered at many farmer’s markets and CSA’s, and for those growing their own garlic. Should you be wondering what garlic scapes are and how to use these curly scape wonders, read on.
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When you come across these intensely green, long & curly little beauties, you may be scratching your head in wonder. Or you may be asking yourself, “what are these things called garlic scapes, where did garlic scapes come from, and how the heck do I use garlic scapes?”.
When you find yourself in that dilemma, you are in the right place. Here you can discover where scapes come from, what they actually are, and most importantly, how to use garlic scapes in some unique ways!
WHAT ARE GARLIC SCAPES?
Garlic scapes are a welcomed early harvest here on the hill. They are not only unique, but are edible, delicious AND nutritious to consume. More on that below 😊
AND they are a “twofer”. An easy crop to grow that has not one, but two harvests; the scape and the bulb!
They begin to appear late spring into early summer about 1 month before the garlic crop is ready for harvest, depending on your location, as an alien looking albeit artistically beautiful, curly green shoot which grows from the center stalk of your garlic plants.
Scapes are a fortuitous crop offering an alternative to garlic cloves in many recipes & appearing just as my stored garlic cloves begin to either dwindle or they begin to sprout!
Garlic scapes are how the hardneck variety of garlic (the variety that has a fibrous, tough, almost woody “stem” in the center of the garlic clove bulb) creates its flower which in turn creates garlic seed (actually small garlic bulbils, which then creates further garlic plants. You get the idea. The cycle of life of the garlic plant.
It takes a LOT of energy for a plant to create a flower or seed head. As it’s the goal of most garlic growers to create large garlic bulbs, we want to stop the garlic plant from doing so.
In order to stop this cycle of flowering and redirect the plants energy toward growing the actual garlic bulb, the scape is cut from the plant, aka harvested. And enjoyed. Just sayin’ 😊
Be sure to watch the video below which goes into detail about the growth habit of the garlic scape.
The curling garlic scape stems, at first growing straight and ultimately coil, eventually develop a pale green to almost white bulbous area toward the top of the scape itself. This is actually what would eventually develop into the garlic flower.
Harvested young, the scape remains tender & the buds remain tight and small.
Considered a vegetable, garlic scapes are a nutritious, aromatic, harvest which can be used in lieu of garlic in some pretty unique ways!
HOW TO HARVEST GARLIC SCAPES
If you are fortunate enough to grow your own garlic crop of the hardneck variety, you will be harvesting scapes.
Once the scape curls, it’s time to harvest. Harvesting when they are young ensures a nice tender scape. The longer you wait to harvest, the woodier the stem of the scape becomes.
Harvest once the dew has dried on a nice dry day. This will allow the stem itself to scab over and heal quickly.
To cut the scape from the garlic plant, simply use a clean, sharp pair of garden snips, kitchen shears, or like me, your hand.
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Grasp the scape down near where it begins to emerge from the center stalk with your pointer finger and thumb, leaving about ½ inch to 1 inch remaining on the plant and simply snap off, or cut.
You will immediately notice a lot of garlicky juice emerging from the cut. This is what will aid the stem in its healing process, keeping debris, dirt, and bird droppings from entering the plant and introducing unwanted bacteria.
Many will want to pull the garlic scape from the stem of the garlic plant in order to obtain more scape. I don’t advise this.
When the scape is pulled, you risk the possibility of loosening the root system of the garlic bulb (growing in the earth) and damaging the plant. Likewise, a hole is created in the center of the stem allowing unwanted’s to enter and ultimately risking the plant.
WHAT PART OF THE GARLIC SCAPE DO YOU EAT
All parts of the garlic scape are edible, although some don’t eat the entire scape. Why? Let’s look at the garlic scape “parts”.
- LOWER STEM – The lower portion of the scape (where it meets the center stem of the plant) can be a bit woody. Doing the bend and feel test as you would asparagus, snap or cut the tough end. DON’T discard this woody base, however! Freeze and add to soups and other dishes to add a bit of garlic flavor without having to use a clove
- SCAPE – The “scape”, although a sum of all these parts, is what most consider the “edible” portion. The part of the stem from the woody base extending all the way to the flower
- FLOWER – The garlic flower is the lighter green colored, almost opaque/white area that is a bit bulbous toward the tip of the cutting
- “LEAF” – The leaf, tip, or “grass-like” end of the scape is the portion from the flower to the end. This can be a bit fibrous, especially when the scapes have not been harvested early enough
Again, all are edible. However, there are portions that I don’t bother with. The leaf or tip of the scape gets composted (or fed to your livestock should you have them), the scape and flower used fresh, and the lower stem, if woody, gets frozen for use later.
DO GARLIC SCAPES TASTE LIKE GARLIC?
When harvested early the scape remains tender and flavorful with a texture similar to that of asparagus. In fact, it’s said that the garlic scapes taste a bit like a mixture of scallion, onions, and garlic.
It’s also said that the scape has a milder flavor than that of a garlic clove, not quite as strong. I personally find them just as garlicky a flavor, although they offer a bit less heat than the clove.
ARE GARLIC SCAPES THE SAME AS GREEN GARLIC?
There is often confusion when it comes to the difference (or if there is a difference) between garlic scapes and green garlic. They are, after all, both green, right?
There is indeed a difference and the scape and green garlic are not one in the same.
Green garlic is just that, garlic that has not matured yet and is just showing its green shoots. These shoots have a very similar look to that of green onion or immature onion in its early state.
Garlic scapes, however, are as described above. A shoot that appears at the top of the center stem which quickly takes a curling shape and eventually develops a flower.
ARE GARLIC SCAPES THE SAME RAMPS?
Both garlic scapes (scapes) and ramps (wild leek) are typically available right around the same time of year.
Although both from the same plant family, Allium, scapes and ramps are not one and the same.
Ramps will have a distinctly leek or onion flavor as opposed to the garlic scape, which has, well, a garlic flavor 😊
GARLIC SCAPE NUTRITIONAL & HEALTH BENEFITS
Are garlic scapes good for you? Yup.
Do they have health benefits? Yup.
GARLIC SCAPE NUTRITIONAL INFO
In 1 Cup of garlic scapes you will find:
|Garlic Scape Nutritional Information||Per 1 Cup|
|Vitamin C||42.6 mg|
|*See additional nutritional information below|
In addition, garlic scapes offer a great source of manganese, vit B6, and selenium.
Scapes are low in calories as well (30 calories per 100 grams).
GARLIC SCAPE HEALTH BENEFITS
Not only are garlic scapes considered a nutritious vegetable, they also offer added health benefits. Here are a few of what I’ve discovered over time.
Full of antioxidants, garlic scapes offer some of the best health benefits for us including protection from heart disease, aiding digestive issues, vision issues and more!
Recommendations and or suggestions made by this blog regarding husbandry and or herbal remedies etc. are not meant to replace solid advice from qualified professionals. None of the information on this blog has been evaluated by the FDA. Products or remedies mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. Please do your due diligence. Research, talk to qualified professionals and proceed at your own risk.
HEART DISEASE PROTECTION
Garlic scapes along with onions, shallots, leeks, and chives are part of the Allium family of plants. These crops go far beyond offering flavor to our kitchen dishes. They are now being revered throughout the world for their healing properties.
It is now being confirmed that this plant family offers prevention of cardiovascular disorders.
“Experimental and clinical studies confirm that the ancient experience with beneficial effects of garlic holds validity even in prevention of cardiovascular disorders and other metabolic ills.”NCBI
DECREASED RISK OF CANCER
Known to possess properties linked to reduced disease and prevention, garlic scapes contain numerous elements that have anticancer capabilities.
Diallyl sulfides (organosulfur compounds) along with the antimicrobial activities of garlic scapes have been linked with a decreased risk of cancer.
CHRONIC DISEASE RISK REDUCTION
Garlic scapes are full of antioxidants (the good stuff that prevents cell damage) and can help increase glutathione (may be the body’s premier antioxidant).
What does all this mean? It means an added protection within the cells of the body from viruses & illness caused from bacteria. It also means that the internal body is a bit more protected from oxidative stress & chronic disease issues.
Studies are now showing that garlic, and that includes the scapes, can improve blood circulation, and in turn increase oxygen flow in the body.
Why is this important? Proper circulation of both blood and oxygen throughout the body helps to increase energy and aid in faster recovery time within the body, aiding in maintaining healthy tissues and organs.
AIDS BONE HEALTH
As we age it’s essential that we maintain overall bone health and discourage the breakdown of bone tissue.
Garlic scapes possess the same substances you would find within the garlic bulbs, namely allicin and allium which help prevent the development of enzymes which speed up this deterioration process.
The oil found within garlic and garlic scapes offer not only flavor but may support and safeguard the liver and kidneys from oxidative stress (imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body) when exposed to environmental toxins.
No matter where the onslaught of toxins are coming from, it’s likely the kidney and liver will be taking the brunt of them. Through consumption of garlic scapes and garlic, we can offer these valuable organs a bit of support.
Scapes provide excellent amounts of provitamin A (carotenoids) which can easily shift into beta-carotene (antioxidant).
Beta-carotene is an antioxidant which can aid and protect the health of our vision. In fact, it’s this compound that has been linked to reduced rates of macular degeneration and slow the progression of cataracts.
WHERE TO SOURCE GARLIC SCAPES
When in season, garlic scapes can be found in several venues, ranging from commercial storefronts such as Asian markets, health food stores, independent grocers, and larger supermarkets like Whole Foods.
And don’t forget your local sources! Think of your local farms, farmer’s markets, and of course, CSA’s. Or better yet, your own backyard!
Again, the season for finding these delectable curly veggies is short. You may want to consider buying more than you need, stock up, and make into some of the unique recipes found below.
HOW TO STORE FRESH GARLIC SCAPES
Garlic scapes are wonderful keepers. They will last for 2 to 3 weeks when kept in the refrigerator. I like to place mine into a repurposed plastic bag with the top left open slightly for circulation. Be sure the scapes you will be storing are completely dried and not damp in any way as this can and will speed up the deterioration process.
If you are looking for longer term storage options, look below.
PRESERVING GARLIC SCAPES
Fortunately since the scapes are available for such a short period, we have options for preserving them.
Freezing your fresh scapes for long-term storage is a great option. Especially for those tough, woody end pieces. Pieces that are not quite edible and that you don’t mind a bit of texture alteration that will happen once un-thawed.
However, you can freeze the entire scape. I would recommend cutting it into 1-2 inch clean & dried pieces and place them into a freezer bag. Be sure to remove as much air as possible from the bag, label it with the contents and date, and then freeze.
Don’t forget to add these items to your pantry inventory sheets! What? You don’t utilize a pantry inventory system already?
Take a look at my tips and suggestions for setting up a comprehensive system, which can and does save us tons of money and reduce waste, in my tutorial, “Pantry Inventory”. Included is a FREE printable which you can download and use. Need a more in-depth system to keep it all tracked? Be sure to visit my ETSY shop and grab my cute Kitchen Inventory printable set!
Scapes hold up surprisingly well to freezing when the intended use is to add to soups and such.
To use, simply remove as much as needed and add to your favorite recipes!
Yes, you heard right. Dehydrating.
You can easily dehydrate your garlic scapes which can then be either rehydrated or powdered as a seasoning!
Simply lay evenly cut pieces in a single layer in your dehydrator. Using the lowest temperature setting your dehydrator offers, dry the pieces until completely dry.
Timing will vary, but will typically take anywhere between 8 to 10 hours.
Cool and process as you desire and store in an airtight container.
GARLIC SCAPE POWDER
To powder place the dehydrated scapes into a blender, I love my Vitamix for this using the “dry” blade. However, a coffee or spice grinder will work perfectly well.
If needed, run the powder through a fine mesh sieve to remove any larger pieces which may have not broken down.
Store the powder in a cool, dark space that remains dry in an airtight container.
Should you be looking for a long shelf-life option, canning your garlic scapes once they have been pickled should definitely be on your agenda. Once processed properly, these jars can safely remain on your pantry shelf for upwards of 2 years!
Be on the lookout shortly for my pickled garlic scape recipe!
HOW TO USE GARLIC SCAPES
Scapes can be used in anything you would normally add garlic, scallions, or leeks! Think marinades, sauces, dressings, soups, stews, stir fries, roasted veggies, omelets, salads or any recipe that you would typically use garlic in.
As a unique way to use your fresh garlic scapes, think about adding one or two to a fresh cut bouquet of flowers! Their unusual shape and coloring lend itself well to creating visual interest!
We enjoy pickled garlic scapes & fermented garlic scapes especially, but also really enjoy garlic scape pesto, garlic scape compound butter, and garlic scape hummus. Keep an eye out for all these upcoming recipes coming soon!
HOW TO PREPARE GARLIC SCAPES
To prep garlic scapes for use, trim the tip off toward the flower bulb. Should you not wish to utilize the flower, you can discard that as well in the compost.
Be sure to give the scapes a good wash under fresh water to clean any debris, dirt, and bird leavings 😊
Remove any woody ends if you choose.
Chop the remaining scape to any length desired.
GARLIC SCAPE RECIPE IDEAS
Need more inspiration for how to use garlic scapes in some unique garlic scape recipes? Here you go from a few friends around the web …
- GRILLED SCAPES
- GARLIC SCAPE PESTO
- GARLIC SCAPE COMPOUND BUTTER
- SAUTEED GARLIC SCAPES
- ROASTED GARLIC SCAPES
- STEAMED SCAPES WITH CLAMS
- SCAPE TEMPURA
- PIZZA TOPPING
- GARLIC SCAPE SOUP
- GARLIC SCAPE AIOLI
- AS AN AROMATIC
- SALAD DRESSINGS/VINAIGRETTES
HOW MUCH TO USE?
As these scapes are pretty much the same pungent flavor as garlic cloves, exactly how do you substitute using the garlic scape in lieu of garlic?
Easy. Use the scapes in any recipe that calls for garlic cloves by substituting 2 garlic scapes in lieu of 1 clove of garlic.
Now this is generally speaking 😊 Scape size, pungency, and tastes vary. Start with one, taste test and go from there.
I have found that a little goes a long way when it comes to the garlicky flavor of scapes.
Hopefully this has answered all your questions in regard to the very edible and healthful garlic scape! Still have more questions? Join the convo below!
Until then, how will you be utilizing garlic scapes this year?
Love, Light, & Laughter ~
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