Garlic scapes

These are the tender young flower stems of hardneck garlic, which emerge in late May/early June, about a month before the heads are ready. They should be removed to force the plant’s energy into bulbing. The easiest way to harvest scapes is to cut them off, but that wastes the best part: the tender, flavorful stem within the plant itself. With equal parts luck and skill, you can gently but firmly tug on the scape and convince it to break near the base of the plant, then be drawn up through the long, almost 2-foot stalk of the plant to emerge as a tender, coiled garlic scape. If harvested too late, scapes will become tough and woody, but the young, tender scapes are a true highlight of seasonal fare for us.

Store scapes in the fridge as you would most vegetables; they will last many weeks.

Use scapes like any fresh garlic or allium. Every bit of the scape is edible, so chop up the whole thing. Cook similarly to minced cloves to provide a nice garlic flavor. In terms of amount, we’ll usually use a couple of scapes in a dish that would otherwise use a couple of medium cloves of garlic. It’s hard to overdo the amount if the scapes are cooked. They can certainly be eaten raw, but they sometimes have a bit of a bite. For those who are not fond of garlic aftertaste, we advise cooking.

We like to make lots of scape pesto, which is great fresh but freezes really well for winter use. Combine chopped garlic scapes, olive oil, and (optional) grated hard cheese in a roughly 2:1:1 ratio. Throw all these items into a blender until you get a nice paste. If desired, add some lemon juice, salt, and/or nuts, and you’re done. This is great as a spread on pizza, a base for pasta, or a flavoring paste for almost any dish. This is more potent than basil pesto, so a little can go a long way. One storage option is to freeze it in ice cube trays, store the cubes in a freezer bag, and then pop a cube into any winter soup for extra flavor. (The ice cube trays may retain garlic flavor.)

As noted above, scapes come only from hardneck garlic varieties. Though flavor may vary among varieties, we don’t track which variety is which when harvesting scapes.