Garlic scapes are a great bonus harvest for garlic growers! You can harvest them to use fresh or freeze them so that they can be enjoyed all year long!
In early spring, one of my favorite harvest seasons begins: the garlic scape harvest! Scapes, along with greens and some peas, are usually some of our firsts real harvests in the springtime! And it’s a harvest I look forward to each year!
Garlic scapes are delicious and versatile! They are perfect with pretty much anything if you ask me! But I’m also one of those people who uses a head of garlic instead of just one clove! Vampires beware – we are not the victims you’re looking for!
I use garlic scapes fresh all spring! I add them into any dish that I can! Springtime pesto is also one of my favorite ways to use them! They store for several weeks in the fridge, but sometimes, we still have more than we can use!
One of my favorite ways preserve the scapes is by freezing them! It’s super simple and they last a year or more in the freezer! Let me tell you, nothing tastes better in the middle of winter than to grab a handful of frozen scapes and pop them into a soup, pasta or quiche! They pack all the flavors of spring and are perfect way to dress up any dish!
What are garlic scapes?
So, what the heck is a garlic scape anyway?
A garlic scape is the flowering stalk of a garlic plant!
As garlic matures in the spring, the warming weather prompts the plant to send up a gorgeous long green curly-cue stem with a giant flower blossom on it. If you’ve never seen a garlic scape (or a garlic flower for that matter!), they are quite a thing of beauty! I always let a few heads flower just so that I can enjoy the blooms and watch the pollinators visit them!
Garlic scapes are a delicacy to enjoy! They have a light garlic flavor that is enjoyable but not as intense as the bulb. Their crisp green texture makes them perfect to top pastas, salads, pizzas, or pretty much any dish! They are also a delicious addition to pesto – one of my favorite uses for them!
For a long time, garlic scapes were primarily a special treat for gardeners and garlic growers only. Luckily, scapes have become more popular in recent years and have become more readily available. You can now often find them in CSA boxes and farmer’s market stands! So if you aren’t lucky enough to grow your own, keep an eye out for them!
Grow Hardneck Garlic for Scapes
Not every type of garlic produces the flowering heads/stalks that we call garlic scapes. If you want to harvest scapes, it’s important to grow a “hardneck” garlic.
Garlic comes in two forms: “hardneck” and “softneck”:
- Softneck garlic heads produce more cloves, but they are usually smaller than the cloves of hardneck varieties.
- Hardneck varieties are generally more cold-hardy than softneck, making them most ideal for northern gardens. Softneck varieties will be easiest to grow in warmer climates.
- Hardneck varieties usually have a stronger flavor than softneck varieties.
- Softneck varieties are the easiest to braid and are most ideal for long-term storage. Hardneck cloves won’t last as long as softneck, so be sure to use your hardneck cloves first.
- Hardneck varieties produce a flower stalk (scape) that forms at the center of the bulb.
The Spruce shared a great list of hardneck garlic varieties here. It goes into detail on the ideal growing conditions and some of the special characteristics of each variety. Check it out and start planning that garlic patch now so that you’re prepared for fall planting!
How to Harvest Garlic Scapes
Most growers and gardeners remove the scapes before they flower. This allows the plant to continue focusing on developing a nice big bulb rather than spending its energy producing the flower and subsequent seeds. Once the scapes appear, there is usually about a month left until it’s time to harvest the garlic bulbs, so it’s important to let the plant continue focusing on growing the bulb.
Garlic scapes are best harvested when they are young. Once the flower starts to form, the stalk will start to get a bit more firm. The ideal time to harvest them is just before or shortly after the flower blossom starts to form. The flower blossom can be eaten as well as the scape, although the texture may be bit stringy or woody. If you prefer not to eat the flower, just chop it off and enjoy the stem instead.
To harvest your garlic scapes, reach to the bottom of the scape, where it meets the plant. Grasp it firmly and pull straight upward. Usually, it will break free with a gentle “pop”. If it doesn’t, you can use clean scissors or shears to cut the scape about an inch above where it meets up with the plant.
How to Freeze Garlic Scapes
If you are lucky enough to have too many garlic scapes to use fresh, you can freeze them! They will last much longer this way and you can use them throughout the rest of the year! Here’s how to freeze your garlic scapes so that you can enjoy them even longer!
- Garlic scapes, any amount
- Knife or scissors
- Large pot
- Colander or cheesecloth
- Kitchen towel
- Cookie sheet
- Once your garlic scapes are harvested (see instructions above for harvesting info), wash them in cool water to remove any dirt.
- Use clean kitchen scissors or a sharp knife to remove the flower bloom from the stem. Discard or use the flower head fresh, if desired.
- Chop the scapes into 1/2-inch sections with a sharp knife or clean kitchen scissors.
- Heat a large pot of water to boiling. This will be used to blanch the garlic scapes which will help remove any pathogens and also help preserve them longer.
- Place the chopped scapes into a metal colander that will fit into the pot of hot water. Or, you can wrap the scapes in cheesecloth.
- Submerge the scapes in the colander or the cheesecloth into the pot of boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Remove from the boiling water and spread on a clean towel. Pat dry.
- Lay the scapes in a single layer on a cookie sheet. I like to line the cookie sheet with a silicone baking mat before spreading the scapes onto it.
- Place the cookie sheet with the scapes into the freeze overnight or until scapes are completely frozen.
- Remove the frozen scapes from the cookie sheet and place in an airtight bag or container.
- Place the bag/container of scapes back into the freezer for storage.
To use frozen scapes, remove desired amount from bag/container. Add them to soups, casseroles or other baked goods. Or, sautee them and add them to pastas, pizzas, egg dishes, etc.
Frozen scapes should be good for up to a year if processed and stored correctly.