The garlic scapes are finally here! So shout it from the rooftops and do your happy dance! It has been eight long months of waiting since I planted my garlic back in late October. I eagerly await this event each growing season, checking the garlic patch frequently, looking for the first signs that the scapes are on their way. Well, the time has come, so let the harvesting begin!
But, in my excitement, I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself. You may have a few questions, like what the heck is a garlic scape? What do you do with them? And why is she getting so excited about them anyway? Scapes are the tender stem and flower bud of hardneck garlic (softneck garlic varieties do not send up scapes). They typically start emerging in late spring to early summer. Farmers have long known that by removing these stems and flower buds, the plant puts its energy into the bulb instead of flowering, resulting in a much larger and more flavorful garlic bulb when harvested later that summer. Thus, garlic is one of the few plants that give two harvests, firstly with its scapes and later with its bulbs.
In recent years, scapes have become popular at farmer’s markets and with CSA members. However, it might leave many wondering, what are you supposed to do with them? I was one of those people not too long ago. Garlic scapes taste like a combination of onion, scallion, and garlic. The flavor is typically milder than the garlic cloves themselves, and the texture is similar to that of asparagus, being slightly fibrous. They are amazingly versatile and are used in a myriad of culinary ways. Scapes can be grilled, roasted, or sauteed with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper, pickled, pureed into pesto for pasta dishes, integrated into hummus or spreads, and added to soups, salads, and stir-fries. They can be substituted in most recipes where you would use garlic cloves or scallions. And boy, are they delicious! Eating these tender delicacies is a once-a-year treat.
Harvesting scapes from the hardneck garlic in your garden is straightforward. For years, I would cut the scape off at the point where it was emerging from the stalk once it was the desired size, which worked beautifully. However, recently, I was given a new tip for harvesting them and decided to give it a try this season. Instead of cutting the scapes off at the top of the stalk, you gently pull them up through the plant stem. It took some finesse and a few tries, but I finally got the hang of it. This method gives you scapes twice the length, which means more pesto, yay! Once harvested, scapes will last for several weeks in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator, or they can be processed into pesto and frozen for later use.
You may remember that I briefly mentioned garlic scapes in a previous post. However, I felt that they deserved a little more time in the spotlight. Perhaps if you’ve tried them, you’ll agree that they are worth getting excited over. I can’t wait to get started in the kitchen, making all the garlic scape recipes that have become yearly favorites. It is always a sad day when we use up the last jar of garlic scape pesto from the freezer. We know it will be another long wait before we can enjoy those flavors again. But, for now, I will escape into the garlic patch and harvest as many scapes as I can so that I can revel in the glorious flavor and garlicky goodness that they provide.