Garlic Scapes: A Culinary Treasure

Ever notice the curly pig-tailed-shaped stem that tops hard-neck garlic plants? It’s called a scape, and it appears about a month or so before it’s time to harvest those robust bulbs below. Garlic scapes are soft, lime green, and leafless, and at the end of each of them is a tightly closed flower bud.

If you leave the scape on the plant a flower grows and blooms, which eventually produces a hard seed. Since the bulbs below ground are what we consume, garlic growers often remove the scape, which prevents the flower from developing and draining nutrients from the plant. Removing the scape directs the plant to send its energy into the bulbs so that they continue to increase in size and flavor.

Before removing the scape, let it grow from the central stalk. It will rise above the rest of the plant and begin to curl, making a loop and then turning upwards. When the scape has finished curling, snap it off just like you’re picking a crisp green bean from the vine. You’ll be able to find the right place to snap off the scape because its base is soft, and the rest of the central stalk will be rather firm and unbending.

The scape is a much sought after and treasured culinary delight – an aromatic herb and veggie all in one. Scapes are edible. They taste mild and sweet with a hint of the garlicky flavor that the bulb below ground promises. Use garlic scapes in stir-fries, grill them up as a side dish, dress a salad or blend into a pesto to use on pasta, pizza, and crackers. However you make use of the scapes, a delicious appetizer, lunch or supper surely awaits.

Keep garlic scapes in the fridge in a plastic zip bag for up to 2-3 weeks. They’ll also stay fresh and look beautiful for a few days in a glass of cool water on the kitchen counter. Just remember to change the water daily. Garlic scapes are a fun addition to summer cut flowers too!

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