What Are Garlic Scapes?

A Guide to Buying and Cooking With Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes

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If you love garlic, then you’ve got to try garlic scapes. Garlic scapes are the long green shoots that grow from the garlic bulb, and they are an amazing way to add garlicky flavor to your favorite dishes. They’re a bit milder than garlic cloves, which make them the perfect base for pestos, an addition to quiches, or even eaten straight up sauteed with a little salt. They’re also a great way to add a pop of springtime color to make your food photo-ready for the ‘gram.

What Are Garlic Scapes?

Garlic scapes are thin, vibrant green stalks that grow from the garlic bulb. They are long, curvy, and kind of look like a cross between chives and scallions. The stalk of the garlic scape also often includes a bulge on the end; that is actually a bud, and if the scape was left on the bulb, the bud would flower. In the past, garlic scapes were simply discarded by farmers in order to allow the garlic plant to channel all of its energy into the bulb. But in recent years, the scapes have become a culinary force in their own right, being sold by the bunch at farmers' markets during a short period between spring and summer when they are in season.

How To Cook With Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes can be eaten raw or cooked up and added to a variety of dishes. Wash the garlic scapes, and trim the end and the bud. Many people discard the bud because it can be quite fibrous, particularly in raw preparations. 

The scapes themselves can be pretty tough, so for raw preparations, they’re best served very thinly sliced as a garnish, or pureed for use in pesto, sauces, or soups. Blend them with some olive oil, parmesan cheese, nuts, and salt for a fresh pesto that screams "it's springtime!" Or chop up a small amount of garlic scapes and add them to your favorite blended salad dressing recipe, such as green goddess dressing. Add thinly sliced garlic scapes to butter for a delicious compound butter that you can whip out to make fresh garlic bread in a snap. You can also cut the garlic scapes to fit into a jar and follow your favorite recipe for pickles. 

You have several options for cooking garlic scapes. Trim the end and bud, toss with oil, salt, and pepper, and pop the whole scapes on the grill over a medium flame. Cook until the outside has a nice char and the inside is soft about—10 minutes. Serve it hot off the grill topped with parmesan. You can also saute or stir fry garlic scapes as you would green beans. Snap them into 2-inch pieces and toss them in oil over medium-high heat for four to five minutes. Note: the buds can be cooked, just add them to the pan a minute or two before you start cooking the rest of the scape, so it has extra time to get tender. You can serve them up as part of a beef, chicken, or stir-fry dish. Sauteed garlic scapes can also be added to quiche for a seasonal spring brunch. 

Garlic scape pesto
Garlic scape stir fry

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Garlic scapes and pork

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What Do Garlic Scapes Taste Like

In their raw form, garlic scapes have a more in-your-face garlic flavor, oniony, pungent, and herbaceous, though they’re less spicy than raw garlic cloves. Once cooked, the scapes have a sweeter flavor similar to roasted garlic. Overall, their flavor is milder than garlic and somewhat a cross between garlic and chives. Their texture is similar to asparagus.

Garlic Scapes Recipes

Garlic Scapes vs. Green Garlic

Garlic scapes are often confused with green garlic. Green garlic is just garlic that hasn’t matured yet, and it looks similar to a green onion. Garlic scapes, on the other hand, grow from the garlic bulb and have stalks that are long, thin, and curly. Green garlic has a milder flavor than garlic cloves and can be cooked and used in similar ways to garlic cloves or green onion.

Where To Buy Garlic Scapes

You’ll find garlic scapes at farmers' markets in late spring or early summer. Nowadays, due to their popularity, you may find them at supermarkets as well, particularly at ones like Whole Foods. If you really enjoy garlic, you can always grow them in your own garden and use both the bulbs and the scapes.

How To Store Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes can be stored in the fridge for up to three weeks in a zip-top plastic bag left slightly open. Since garlic scapes are only available for a few weeks, you may want to purchase more than you need and freeze them. To freeze, place the garlic scapes in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and put that in the freezer. This will prevent them from clumping together. Once frozen, transfer to a ziptop bag, and store in the freezer for up to one year.