Food & Entertaining - In Season

The great (garlic) scape

Don't let those curly shoots go to waste! Pick and eat garlic scapes at their peak

Garlic is one of the few plants that provides two harvests. Unfortunately, all too often gardeners discard the first crop—scapes. These curly flower stems are cut to force the garlic bulbs to grow bigger, but they’re a treat worth investigating on their own. Instead of adding them to the compost heap, bring them into the kitchen. Delivering a flavour that’s a cross between garlic and a scallion, scapes are a versatile and unusual culinary option for the adventuresome cook.

Harvesting garlic scapes
If you’re picking scapes to energize your garlic, timing isn’t quite so important, but if you want to enjoy the mild, tender stem at its peak, you’ll want to pick the scapes early. Exact timing depends on the variety of garlic, but usually by mid-June your scapes will be at their best.

Regardless of the calendar, cut scapes as early as possible—once the flower bulb has begun to form, but long before the flower blooms. The scape should still be curly, not straight.

Be sure to harvest the stem in the heat of the afternoon when the sap dries more quickly. Cutting the stems in the early morning can drain the plant and leave it vulnerable to disease. To harvest the scape, simply snap the stalk with your fingers just above the first set of leaves. If you don’t want to get the smell of garlic on your hands use scissors or a sharp knife.

Don’t grow garlic? With their popularity on the rise, scapes are now common produce at most local farmers’ markets. But buy them when you see them since the season is very, very short.

Cooking with garlic scapes
If you harvested a bit late, remove the woody base of the stems—just as you would with asparagus.

With the scapes trimmed and ready to go, just pull out your favourite recipes and treat them like garlic. Grind them into guacamole, stir them into soup and pound them into a pesto.

Need more ideas? Treat them like a green vegetable.

  • Steam them like asparagus. As soon as they’re limp, toss with butter, salt and pepper.
  • Saute them with butter. Just heat up a pan, toss in some butter and cook them until tender.
  • Stir-fry them. Chop the scapes into one-inch lengths and add to your favourite Asian wok dish.
  • Sprinkle them on a pizza.
  • Pickle them.
  • Infuse them into vinegar to create as a base for homemade salad dressing.
  • Grill them.

Not sure how to grill your scapes? Try this recipe for easy grilled garlic scapes.

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