Garlic is one of our favorite hands-off crops to grow every year. It requires very little in the way of maintenance. However, one of the tasks we have to do each year is harvest garlic scapes from hardneck varieties.
In this article, you will learn when and how to harvest garlic scapes. I will also provide a bit of info on what garlic scapes are, how you can use them, as well as how to store them for the long term. Let’s get started!
What is a garlic scape?
Garlic generally falls into two categories: Softneck and hardneck. Here in New England, hardneck is our preference for the larger cloves and better growth in our region. If you live in a climate with milder winters, softneck may grow better for you.
Hardneck garlic has a stiff, central shoot from the center of the bulb, hence the name. Hardneck garlic also produces a scape in mid-summer, while softneck does not.
The scape appears in late spring and early summer, forming tall stem from the center of each garlic plant. If left unpruned, each scape will curl around, eventually producing a flower. In the end, the scape form bulbils, which are similar to seeds in that they can produce a new plant.
When to harvest garlic scapes
While scapes have their uses, most of us are growing garlic for the bulb and cloves. So, instead of allowing the plants to form flowers, we want to redirect that energy back to the bulb underground.
To do this, we recommend to harvesting garlic scapes in early to mid-summer when they have curled around on themselves once. The scapes will form a “P” shape when they are ready for picking.
In most Northern zones with winters, garlic scapes are ready to harvest in late May to mid-June. However, this can vary based on the weather during each particular year.
When to harvest garlic scapes by hardiness zone:
|Hardiness Zone||When to harvest garlic scapes|
|6||Early to mid June|
|8||Late May to early June|
How to harvest garlic scapes properly
Once you know when they are ready, harvesting garlic scapes is easy. Simply identify the scape and make a clean cut close to the base of it.
Pruning shears work great, but many gardeners prefer to hand-pick their scapes. Be careful not to damage the leaves on the plant, as this can cause reduced bulb size.
Once removed, you can also remove the bulging white portion of the scape, as this section tends to be tougher than the rest. This is the section that would form the flower if the scape were left on the plant.
Garlic scapes uses and recipes
Now that you’ve harvested your scapes, what will you do with them? They should never be thrown away or composted, because they make delicious food! Garlic scapes taste like garlic, only with a slightly milder, fresher flavor.
- Substitute for garlic. The simplest use is to add garlic scapes to whatever you happen to be cooking up. If the recipe calls for garlic (or even if it doesn’t), add some scapes to enhance both flavor and texture.
- Make garlic scape butter. A popular use for garlic scapes is to make a homemade scape-infused butter. Since butter and garlic so often find themselves together, I can attest to this being a great option.
- Add to eggs. Since scapes have a milder garlic flavor, they are great for adding to morning eggs. The fresh, crunchy texture pairs well in omelets.
- Stir fry them. Fry them up with some butter, salt, and herbs of your choice. They make a delicious side dish.
- Pickle them with other veggies. Pickled veggies make for a great, long-lasting snack. Garlic scapes are delicious pickled on their own. However, they can also add wonderful flavor to pickled cucumbers, peppers, onions, or carrots.
Again, garlic scapes are similar in flavor to garlic cloves, so any time you need garlic, just use scapes instead!
Why are my garlic scapes are tough?
If you waited too long to harvest, your scapes may begin turning woody and tough. This makes them less appetizing when eaten fresh, but they can still be used!
Use any toughened garlic scapes to make infused vinegar, homemade marinades, or to add flavor to stocks, soups, and stews.
How to store garlic scapes
If you grow a lot of garlic, you will end up with a lot of scapes, too! While many of them can be cooked fresh and enjoyed right away, you may need to store some for later.
- Store in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks. If long term storage is not important, you can keep your garlic scapes in the refrigerator for up to a month. Keep an eye out for rot or mold.
- Freeze them. Garlic scapes are an excellent candidate for freezing. Just like peppers, onions, and many other veggies, garlic scapes will keep their flavor when frozen properly. We vacuum seal any produce that will be frozen for a long time.
- Share with friends and neighbors. Garlic scapes come and go so quickly, so why not share the brief excitement with friends or family? They’ll appreciate the unique gift (and probably ask for more next year).
I hope this article has helped you learn all about garlic scapes. They are a great treat in early summer, hinting at the delicious harvest of garlic that is ahead!