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Garlic Scapes - Why To Cut and How To Cook

garlic scape heart

At heart, I am a skeptical, lazy gardener. I question old-school farming practices, especially if they require me to work harder. I want evidence that I should do this or that to make my plants happy.

Every year I test a few traditional garden concepts, like removing tomato suckers, to find out whether they really benefit the plant's production. (I find no evidence that removing suckers is anything but suckers' work.) Two years ago, I used my garlic patch as a trial for the standard practice of removing the garlic scape to encourage bulb production.

Should You Cut Scapes?

Garlic scapes are the flower stalk of the garlic plant. The theory behind removing them is that by taking away the flower bud, the plant will put more energy into bulb production. Look below to see the difference between garlic with scapes removed on the right and those allowed to flower on left of plants grown in the same location and with same growing practices.

garlic scapes comparisonClearly, scapes to inhibit bulb production. When removed, the garlic produces healthier, bigger bulbs. Because the scapes are edible, the gardener is rewarded for their work of removing the scape with a tasty food.

How To Eat Garlic Scapes

The garlic scape stalk is a dense cylinder of garlic-flavored goodness. At this time of year, I stop buying garlic and use chopped up fresh scapes for all my garlic needs. I add them to stir fry, soups, stocks, and pickles.

Garlic scapes are traditionally made into pesto by pureeing the scape with fresh herbs, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Garlic scape pesto can be used as a sauce for pasta, spread for sandwiches, or mixed with sour cream for a dip.

Store scapes in the fridge for up to two weeks. Alternatively, put freshly-cut ends in a container of water and keep at room temperature for a few days where you can enjoy the shapes. As a last resort, give one to your child to use as a magic wand or a sword! Lil, seen here a few years ago, love to play with scapes.

lil and scape wand

If you don't grow your own garlic but want to experiment with scapes, visit your local farmers' market. Farmers are only too happy to sell their edible plant pickings. Come see me at the Swainway/Northridge booth at Clintonville this weekend for organic Ohio scapes.