What to do with garlic scapes.

They’re here—in my own garden and at farmers’ markets—just in the last week: Garlic scapes!

What is a garlic scape, you ask? The scape is the little curlicue sprout that shoots from the top of a hardneck garlic plant. Many home gardeners and professional growers cut off the garlic scape to direct the plant’s energy toward growing a fat bulb (the underground part) with large, flavorful cloves. In our hardiness zone 6a, scapes typically arrive in early June (garlic is harvested in late June to early July); this season they’re a few weeks early in my garden.

Garlic scapes have a milder, “greener” flavor than garlic cloves, and you can chop the green parts and use them in place of (or in addition to) the cloves. Garlic scapes make a healthful way to add taste and interest to your springtime cooking.

What to do with garlic scapes? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Chop them finely and add to your favorite homemade vinaigrette dressing
  • Chop them and toss with a pint of cherry tomatoes, fresh thyme sprigs, salt and pepper and a good glug of olive oil, wrap the lot in foil and grill-roast for 15–20 minutes
  • Make garlic scape pesto
  • Chop them and use as you would garlic cloves in any recipe
  • Mix minced garlic scapes with softened butter, fresh herbs and salt and pepper, dollop on a grilled steak

Like everything wonderful, garlic scapes are a fleeting, seasonal pleasure. If you can find a bagful at your farmers’ market, by all means bring some home. I spotted garlic scapes on several tables at the Hyde Park Farmers’ Market; Madison’s at Findlay Market sells garlic scapes from Niemeyer Farm, and they’re popping up on restaurant menus around the region.

About the illustration: The generous and talented Linda Cassady provided the lovely image of garlic scapes. Linda is a Chicago-based illustrator and designer. See more of Linda’s work in her illustration portfolio.

2 thoughts on “What to do with garlic scapes.

  1. I was just at the farmers market in Mars Hill, NC and there was a basket filled with garlic scapes. Not knowing what they were I inquired and the vendor broke off a piece and said to taste it. It was anything but a mild garlic taste. I can imagine that it would be good in lots of things including quiche, BUT make sure you use it sparingly of have some good breath mints handy.

    • Thanks for the comment, Sonny! I would guess that, like garlic itself, different varieties of scapes also have different levels of flavor.