Fresh garlic scapes are a fun find at local farmers’ markets, and they’re one of the best parts about growing garlic at home in the garden. These tasty garlic flower buds are a bit milder than garlic bulbs, and they have a delicate vegetal flavor. Now all you need is a few creative garlic scape recipes to get them on the table!
Growing garlic is almost a religion here in Vermont, and just about everyone puts in at least a few rows.
It’s planted in the fall, and then harvested in early summer the following year which means we get to extend our short 100-day growing season into the snow-filled winters.
It also has the added bonus of garlic scapes each June, which provide a little bonus crop early in the season.
This year we planted around 400 garlic bulbs in raised beds, which means we’ll need plenty of garlic scape recipes!
Not all garlic produces garlic scapes, and the generic grocery store garlic varieties are usually “soft neck” which means they don’t produce a garlic flower stalk. They also don’t have the incredible flavor of hard neck garlic varieties or the hardiness.
We grow hardneck garlic, which tastes incredible, and once you’ve tried it you won’t want to go back to lackluster grocery store garlic. Most varieties produce 3 to 6 gigantic intensely flavored cloves that are easy to peel, which is a nice bonus too.
The best part though? Garlic scapes!
What are Garlic Scapes?
Garlic scapes are the flower stalk of hardneck garlic. They’re produced right before the bulb begins to form, storing energy for the following year. (Yes, garlic is a perennial, so it will re-grow year after year if not harvested.)
For the most part, the “flower stalk” doesn’t really result in garlic flowers, but rather small garlic bulbils or mini cloves of garlic. They’re like little garlic seeds that can be picked up by animals and dispersed, meaning that the garlic can spread to other locations.
Technically, the garlic plant does actually produce a few true garlic flowers within the scapes, but they’re very rarely pollinated so it’s rare to see true garlic seed. If you want a fun project though, you can try hand pollinating tiny garlic flowers to produce true garlic seed, but it requires a good bit of dedication.
The problem is, when a garlic plant puts energy into producing flowers or tiny mini cloves (bulbils) at the top of the stalk, it doesn’t put nearly as much energy into the developing bulb. If you want big healthy garlic bulbs, you need to trim off the garlic flowers (known as garlic scapes) as soon as they begin to form.
You can let them get 6-12 inches long so that you have a meaningful garlic scape harvest to use in recipes, but don’t let them open. At that point, your bulb will never quite be as big as if you’d trimmed the scapes.
(If you’re not growing garlic, you can find them in bundles at the farmers’ market too. They’re usually about a few bucks a bundle for a bundle of a dozen or so scapes. Given that the garlic is sold for about $1 a bulb later on, selling garlic scapes really helps farmers make ends meet by making use of a “waste” product.)
How Long Do Garlic Scapes Keep?
The while garlic scapes are a nice bonus in early summer, they don’t keep long.
As soon as they’re trimmed they’ll quickly start to get tough and woody. Fresh garlic stalks are tender, think like fresh asparagus. Leave them in the fridge more than a few days and they’ll be too tough and stringy to use.
Definitely use garlic scapes within a week of harvest, but ideally within a few days.
While you can freeze garlic scapes, they’re really not the same defrosted as they are fresh. They get a bit rubbery, and the flavor’s never quite as spot-on.
If you need to preserve them for later, I’d recommend making them into your favorite garlic scape recipe and then freezing that. Garlic scape pesto, for example, freezes beautifully. As does garlic scape quiche.
And there are always canned garlic scape pickles if you don’t have the freezer space.
Garlic Scape Recipes
In general, garlic scapes can be used anywhere you’d use fresh garlic or garlic chives. They also a stand-in for fresh vegetables like asparagus.
Grill them whole for a nice veggie side dish, or add them to a stir fry.
Chop them into short sections about 1/2 an inch long and toss them into scrambled eggs or quiche.
Really the sky’s the limit, whether you keep it simple or go all out.
Simple Garlic Scape Recipes
Looking for the absolute easiest garlic scape recipes? No worries!
Spring is a busy time, and sometimes it’s best to keep it simple without sacrificing flavor.
- Grilled Garlic Scapes with Sea Salt ~ With Food and Love
- Sauteed Garlic Scapes with Lemon Butter ~ The Clever Carrot
- Garlic Scape Tempura ~ Food52
- Garlic Scape Garlic Bread ~ The Art of Natural Living
- Garlic Scape Toasts ~ Martha Stewart
- Bacon-Wrapped Garlic Scapes ~ Do It with Bacon
- Scrambled Eggs with Garlic Scapes ~ Food.com
Garlic Scape Dips and Spreads
Just as garlic-based sauces and dips naturally enhance the flavor of just about anything, garlic scapes are perfect for sauces and dips.
An obvious choice is garlic scape pesto, which replaces both garlic and basil with fresh garlic scapes. It’s got a good bit of heat, and I absolutely love it. I always pack away several jars of it in the freezer each year.
Beyond pesto, there’s all manner of dips and dressings too!
- Garlic Scape Pesto ~ NYT Cooking
- Garlic Scape Hummus ~ Oat and Sesame
- White Bean and Garlic Scape Dip ~ A Little Bit of Bacon
- Labneh and Garlic Scape Dip ~ Brooklyn Supper
- Garlic Scape Chimichurri ~ Diversivore
- Garlic Scape Dressing ~ The First Mess
- Garlic Scape Aioli (with Tempura Garlic Scapes) ~ Food52
- Garlic Scape Compound Butter ~ The Beard and The Baker
Garlic Scape Pickles and Preserves
Since garlic scapes are a savory vegetable, it makes sense that they’d taste good in savory pickles.
But what about something more exotic like garlic scape chutney? It’s a savory preserve with plenty of vinegar for preservation.
If you’re looking for something really creative though, herbal jams are really spectacular, and garlic scape jam is no different. They’re not quite the same as homemade fruit jam, obviously.
Made with white wine and a good bit of vinegar to add a zesty tang to balance the sugar, herbal jams are great on crackers with cheese or a charcuterie plate.
- Pickled Garlic Scapes (Approved for Canning) ~ Practical Self Reliance
- Garlic Scape Chutney with on Grilled Naan Bread ~ Feasting at Home
- Garlic Scape Jam ~ Bernardin Home Canning
- Lacto-Fermented Garlic Scapes ~ Nourished Kitchen
Garlic Scape Pasta Recipes
Pasta always tastes better with garlic in my opinion, and garlic scapes give you both flavor and a bit of veggie goodness at the same time.
Really they’re fine just sauteed in butter and tossed with freshly cooked pasta, but you can get really creative with these garlic scape pasta recipes too.
- Garlic Scape and Cherry Tomato Pasta ~ Saveur
- Spicy Garlic Scape Spaghetti ~ O&O Eats
- Lemony Garlic Scape Spaghetti ~ Eat to Beat
- Garlic Scape Carbonara ~ Sarah Bella Cuisine
Garlic Scape Bread Recipes
Garlic and bread go so well together, and garlic scapes are no different. Think of them as both garlic and garlic chives in a bread recipe, since they incorporate both garlic flavor and fresh green notes.
I especially love them in cheddar biscuits, which come together quickly and bake up just as fast (without long rise times). If you’re feeling ambitious though, try fresh focaccia or sourdough garlic scape bread.
- Garlic Scape Biscuits with Cheddar ~ She Loves Biscotti
- Garlic Scape Sourdough Boule ~ Mother Earth News
- Garlic Scape and Spring Onion Focaccia ~ Wanderings in My Kitchen
- Garlic Scape Fergazza Bread (Stuffed Bread with Cheese) ~ Well Fed, Flat Broke
Garlic Scape Meal Ideas
Sure you can make all manner of sauces, dips, and even bread with garlic scapes, but now the million-dollar question…
What about actual garlic scape meal ideas?
In truth, you can dice garlic scapes into just about anything from pasta sauce to eggs or stir-fries. Really anywhere you’d toss in minced garlic or diced veggies.
That said, here are a few meal ideas to really showcase garlic scapes while they’re in season.
- Garlic Scape Soup ~ The Lemon Apron
- Spring Roots with Garlic Scapes and Fried Eggs ~ Reformation Acres
- Garlic Scape Stir Fry ~ The Woks of Life
- Sausage and Garlic Scape Risotto ~ Just a Little Bit of Bacon
- Grilled Garlic Scape Potato Salad ~ Gusto TV
- Garlic Scape Frittata ~ Umami Girl
- Garlic Scape Quiche ~ Confessions of an Overworked Mom
Garden Fresh Recipe Ideas
Looking for more ways to use the garden’s bounty?