Everything You Need To Know About Garlic Scapes

The lowdown on this curly green vegetable.

Long, curly and deep green, garlic scapes are typically among the first produce found at spring farmers markets. But what are they—and what do you do with them? Here’s everything you need to know about these delicious greens.

What are garlic scapes?

Garlic scapes are the tender stem and flower bud of a hardneck garlic plant. (Hardneck garlic is the kind of garlic that typically grows in Canada and the northeastern U.S.) Scapes first grow straight out of the garlic bulb, then coil. When harvested, they look like long, curly green beans.

Garlic is one of the few plants with two harvests: garlic scapes are harvested in the late spring and early summer, and then the bulbs are harvested later in the summer. Harvesting the scapes is an integral part of garlic farming—if the scapes aren’t cut off, the plant expends its energy trying to grow its stem and flower, leaving the bulb small and flavourless. So, by eating garlic scapes, you’re doing your part in the garlic growing cycle.

When are garlic scapes in season in Canada?

These thin, green stalks are in season in in the late spring and early summer. Because garlic farming is dependent on soil temperature, scapes start growing once spring arrives and the soil starts warming up. In most parts of the country, scapes are ready to be harvested in June and July.

What do they taste like?

According to Carolyn Chua, Chatelaine’s Senior Associate Food Editor, garlic scapes taste like a unique blend of onion, scallion and garlic. However, scapes are usually less fiery and have a fresher, “greener” taste than the actual garlic bulbs. The texture is similar to that of asparagus.

How are garlic scapes different from ramps?

Ramps, or wild leeks, can sometimes be confused with garlic scapes, since they also tend to be available in early spring (though generally earlier than scapes). However, ramps are their own plant (unlike scapes, which are the stem of the garlic plant) and taste like leeks and onion.

How do I prep garlic scapes?

Scapes are really easy to prep. Most of the time, the tips of the scapes will have a little bulb on it. Snip off the tips and the bulb, run the scapes under some water to get rid of any dirt and chop up the scapes to whatever length you’d like.

How do I eat them? What garlic scapes recipes can I use?

Scapes are very versatile and can be used in an assortment of recipes. They can be used anywhere you might otherwise use garlic cloves or scallions. They can be sautéed, pureed, roasted and pickled. They’re great in Asian cuisine, such as a stir fry. They can be diced and used in omelettes, frittatas, soups and salads. They can be eaten cooked or raw—though, be warned, they are a little tough when raw.

A common use for garlic scapes is pesto. It’s a great alternative to the standard basil and pine nuts pesto. Garlic scapes pesto can be made by simply replacing basil with raw scapes. For the best possible pesto, Chua suggests using a nice canola oil, rather than extra virgin olive oil.

An easy garlic scapes pesto recipe:

You will need:
1 cup chopped garlic scapes (1-in. pieces)
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup canola oil
4 tsp lemon juice
¼ tsp salt
Pinch of pepper
1. Pulse garlic scapes with pine nuts in a food processor until finely chopped. Add parmesan and pulse twice. With motor running, slowly add oil through feed tube until almost smooth. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper.
2. Use pesto right away over pasta, crostini, salad and pizza or transfer to a glass jar, seal and refrigerate up to 3 days. It can be frozen in ice cube trays for future use up to a month.

This recipe takes about 10 minutes and makes 1 cup of pesto.

Where can I find garlic scapes?

Garlic scapes can be found in Asian supermarkets in the fresh produce section when they’re in season. You can also find garlic scapes at farmers markets and independent grocers as Urban Fresh Produce at St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. You can also buy scapes directly from farms, such as Le Petit Mas in Martinville, Quebec and Bradley Creek Garlic Farms in Forest Grove, B.C.

Because scapes are very hard to come by when they’re not in season (and even when they are, they’re not available at many generic grocery stores), it’s a good idea to stock up when you find them.

How do you store garlic scapes—and how long do they keep?

Garlic scapes keep very well in the crisper—they can last for up to two weeks. You can also chop them up and freeze them in plastic bags, which will preserve them for much longer.