Garlic scapes are the flower stalks of hardneck garlic. The shoots are edible and have a mild garlicky flavor with a hint of sweetness. Here are 10 garlic scape recipes to help you preserve and cook with this seasonal delicacy.
If you grow hardneck garlic you are in for a treat because the plant provides two harvests. A few weeks before the garlic bulb is ready to harvest, you will have an opportunity to pick garlic scapes. These tender, mildly garlic flavored shoots are delicious.
Garlic scapes are a much anticipated and enjoyed harvest that usually occurs mid-June in my area. This is commonly the time we are in a garlic rut. Usually the stored garlic from last year has dwindled, and I try to resist harvesting the garlic growing in the garden to allow it to reach its full size. Garlic scapes fill in that gap and can be used as a replacement for garlic in most recipes.
What are Garlic Scapes?
Garlic scapes, also sometimes called garlic stems, stalks, shoots or spears, are the flower stalks that hardneck garlic plants produce before the bulbs mature.
About three weeks before the garlic bulb is ready for harvesting, it sends up a flower stalk. The stalk grows upwards for several inches then will curl once or twice before continuing to grow upward.
Removing this stalk, or garlic scape allows the plant to devote its energy into growing a larger bulb of garlic. The garlic scape is edible and has a lovely, mild garlic flavor with a hint of sweetness.
How to Harvest Garlic Scapes
The scape is most tender, with almost an asparagus-like texture when it is curling. If harvested a little later, the base becomes more fibrous and woody. I harvest mine all at once at the curly state by cutting the scape at the bottom where it meets the last leaf of the plant.
If you are a late to peak harvest time, simply remove the woody base of the stems like you would with asparagus. I freeze the woody ends to add to the pot when making chicken or turkey stock.
When you are ready to harvest, wait for a nice dry afternoon so the cut stems heal up quickly. Then just cut the stems at the point where they meet the top leaf of the plant. I like to use pruning sheers because they leave a clean cut.
Ways to Preserve Garlic Scapes
Garlic scapes are an excellent way to add a hint of garlic to any dish you want to season with a mild garlic flavor. They can also be preserved or pickled which allows you to enjoy them all year round. Here are several ways you can preserve garlic scapes:
Freezing Garlic Scapes
My favorite way to savor the mild garlic scape flavor, is to chop them into 1-inch pieces, and freeze. Squeeze the bag, or use a straw to remove as much air as you can from the bag before sealing.
This makes it easy to grab a handful of garlic scapes and add them to soups, stews, stir fry, roasted vegetables, or anywhere else that you would use garlic. The garlic scapes hold up really well to freezing and remain firm. They can also be chopped or minced smaller as needed for recipes.
Garlic Scape Pesto
Another way to preserve the mild flavor of garlic scapes is to make pesto with a food processor and freeze it for later meals. Once thawed, the pesto can be used as a dip, pizza topping, sandwich spread, or as a sauce for fresh pasta. This recipe is a slight twist from regular pesto. It combines garlic scapes with lemon balm instead of basil for an early garden fresh variation:
Dehydrating Garlic Scapes
Garlic scapes can be chopped into pieces and dried using a food dehydrator. Small pieces can be rehydrated when simmered in soups and stews, or you can grind into a mild flavored green garlic powder that can be used as a seasoning for recipes.
Wash the garlic scapes under clean running water and place on a kitchen towel to air dry. Chop the stems into even sized pieces and spread out in a single layer on your dehydrator screens. Dehydrate at 125˚F (52˚C) until crisp, about 10 hours depending on the size of your pieces. Let cool and store in an airtight container.
For green garlic scape powder, grind the dried pieces into a powder using a high quality blender, spice grinder, or coffee grinder. Sift the powder through a wire mesh strainer to remove large pieces, and store the garlic scape powder in an airtight container in a dark, cool, and dry location.
Canning Pickled Garlic Scapes
Garlic scapes can also be pickled and preserved in shelf stable jars to enjoy year around. The stems stay crisp and crunchy and they are delicious as a snack, sandwich topping, or as a side dish with grilled meats. Learn how to make pickled garlic scapes with this easy home canning recipe:
Recipes for Garlic Scapes
Garlic scapes can be cooked in so many ways. The texture is similar to asparagus, so it holds up well to roasting, grilling, and sautéing. It has a mild garlicky flavor, and can be used in any savory recipe that calls for garlic.
Fresh garlic scapes last a long time in the refrigerator. Simply rinse well, air dry, and then place in a glass or water, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer. They will stay fresh for several weeks.
I often use garlic scapes in stir-fries, sautéed in olive oil and used as a pizza topping, or grilled as a side dish. Roasting particularly brings out the sweet garlic taste. Wondering what else to do with garlic scapes? Try some of these recipes:
Grilled Garlic Scapes
Garlic scapes are tossed with olive oil, charred slightly on a hot grill, and piled on a plate, and seasoned with sea salt and fresh-ground pepper. Serve as a snack or side dish to any meal.
Stir Fried Garlic Scapes
This is a delicious stir-fry recipe from The Woks of Life that we have enjoyed again and again. You can swap out the meat and veggies to use whatever you have coming out of the garden, such as spring carrots, bok choi, and snow peas.
- Chinese Garlic Scapes Stir-fry with Pork by The Woks of Life
Garlic Scape Soup
This creamy soup recipe combines garlic scapes, new potatoes, and onions with a well-seasoned stock. It is simmered, and then blended up with sour cream or Greek yogurt for a smooth texture. Top off with fresh herbs, serve with a salad and crusty bread, and you have a delicious meal.
- Potato Garlic Scape Soup by It’s a Veg World After All
Garlic Scape Fries
In this recipe from Veggiekins, garlic scapes are cut into fry shapes, coated with seasoned breadcrumbs, and baked until crispy in the oven or air-fryer.
- Garlic Scape Fries by Veggiekin
Garlic Scape Salad Dressing
This classic vinaigrette from Binky’s Carnival takes advantage of the mild flavor of garlic scapes. Use as a salad dressing, marinade for meats, or drizzle on roasted vegetables. The dressing blends up easier if you cook the garlic scapes first. Simply chop and sauté the garlic scapes briefly until slightly soft, and then let cool before blending with the other ingredients in this recipe:
- Garlic Scape Vinaigrette by Binky’s Culinary Carnival
Roasted Garlic Scape Hummus
The mild garlic flavor of garlic scapes blends well with chickpeas, tahini, and other ingredients in this recipe from A Dish of Daily Life. I suggest roasting the garlic scapes first for an added smoky charred flavor, and so they blend up smoothly. Toss the stems with a little olive oil and roast in a 425˚F oven until slightly browned. Let cool, and then follow the hummus recipe below:
- Homemade Hummus with Garlic Scapes by A Dish of Daily Life
Garlic Scape Compound Butter
This flavorful compound butter is delicious dolloped on grilled steak or seafood, or when used to make garlic bread. Extras can be stored in the freezer to use later.
- Lemon Garlic Scapes Compound Butter by Relishments
I hope I have given you some ideas on ways to use garlic scapes with these garlic scape recipes. If you don’t grow your own garlic, look for garlic scapes in late spring and early summer at your local farmers markets or csa box.
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Julie Mallory says
Can you use the flowers that have gone to seed?
©Rachel Arsenault says
Julie, Yes, you can. They have a mild garlic flavor.
CAREY IRELAND says
didn”t know anything about garlic scapes till late they were tall and woody almost straight are they junk at this point?
©Rachel Arsenault says
Carey, The garlic scapes will still have a garlic flavor can be chopped and used in recipes.
Can you use previously frozen scapes, make pesto and referee?
©Rachel Arsenault says
Claire, Yes, you can. I do this often.
Can you process the pesto instead of freezing it?
©Rachel Arsenault says
Lois, There are no safe canning methods for pesto. Herbs and oils are both low-acid and together could support the growth of the disease-causing Clostridium botulinum bacteria. More Info here: https://nchfp.uga.edu/questions/FAQ_canning.html#31
Thanks for the ideas. I have grown garlic for many years and usually freeze pesto from my scapes. I make so many batches that I couldn’t afford to use pine nuts, but I discovered that I can substitute almond flour in my pesto. It’s not quite as good, but it works well enough for me. I love the pesto roasted on top of chicken breasts or salmon filets. (I don’t add the cheese when freezing – I sometimes use different kinds after thawing or omit it altogether, depending on what I’ll be cooking.) I recently learned I must follow a low FODMAP diet which means no garlic – but garlic scapes are the exception. I have a huge basket of them in the kitchen that I cut this morning so I plan to chop most of them and freeze to use as garlic substitutes in all my cooking. Do you think the scapes should be blanched before freezing?
©Rachel Arsenault says
Anders, Mmmmm, I love garlic scape pesto and make it often as well. You can also try substituting walnuts for the pine nuts for a slight twist. You don’t have to blanch garlic scapes when freezing. Just chop them up, toss them into a freezer bag, remove as much air as you can, label and freeze. They don’t stick together when frozen, so you should be able to grab a handful as you need them.
Walnuts work well too.