Gourmet Garlic Scapes

June 3, 2006

The gourmet garlic plants have begun sending up their tall, curly, seed stalks which are commonly referred to as garlic scapes.

While some garlic growers leave the scapes on the plants, I always remove them as they appear during the early summer months.

Remove or Leave Garlic Seed Stalks on the Plants?

Garlic Seed StalksOne argument for removing the garlic scapes is that it allows the plant to focus on the formation of the bulbs which are growing underground and will ultimately result in larger cloves of delicious home grown garlic.

On the other hand I’ve also seen claims that removing the scapes is simply extra work and has absolutely no impact on the size or quality of the garlic bulbs that will be harvested later in the summer. Some growers even claim that leaving the seed stalks on the plants will somehow improve the keeping quality of the mature garlic bulbs.

Using Garlic Scapes in the Gourmet Kitchen

I haven’t attempted to conduct any type of test to determine which option is more beneficial, but my preference is to remove the garlic scapes shortly after they appear. One bonus if you remove the seed stalks is that they are edible and can be included in your favorite recipes to add a little garlic flavor and nutrition to your meals.

To harvest the young garlic scapes simply grasp and bend them over where they grow out of the plant until they easily snap off.

Garlic ScapesGarlic lovers may enjoy the scapes raw in salads or pureed into dishes like guacamole or pesto. For the fainter hearted among you the scapes are great and much milder served as a cooked vegetable or used as a seasoning just like garlic cloves.

Scapes can also be included in stir fry’s, soups, pasta dishes, sauces, and your favorite recipes that are enhanced by the flavor of garlic. You can also just toss them in along with other vegetables that you are steaming, boiling, roasting, or even grilling.

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  • Excellent advice on the Garlic! I found (the hard way) that garlic cloves may actually fail to produce if the scapes are not cut back on a regular basis for container grown garlic.

  • Bob Harden


    Thanks for everything!

    Bob Harden

  • I haven’t experimented to see if cutting the scapes actually affects bulb size. I just like cutting them and cooking with them becasue they are a wonderful way to get an early taste of the garlic before we pull the bulbs. A few more weeks to go on that.

    I enjoyed trying my scapes in pesto recently. Delicious!!

  • Sharon Little

    Take the scapes off!!! All the energy goes into the flowers rather than into the bulbs and you wind up with teensy bulbs if you let them flower!!! Scapes keep well in the fridge and you can share with friends! It’s worth the effort.

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  • I’ve never seen these on my garlic. I wonder if our more temperate climate and shorter growing season have anything to do with that. What a marvellous bonus crop to have!

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  • Kenny Point

    Hi Lin, I believe that you are correct and the absence of the garlic scapes in your garden is due to your climate… I’ve heard that the garlic plants will not produce scapes at certain latitudes.

  • Hi Kenny! I have been looking into this, as I thought I didn’t get scapes because I was too far north. But it seems it must be the variety of garlic that is the factor, not so much the latitude.
    I have found a garlic grower in Nairn, Scotland (farther north than Edinburgh, where I am). They are the Really Garlicky Company, Nairn (http://www.reallygarlicky.co.uk/) Click on the “More about the products” button to have all your garlicky questions answered. Including all about scapes. It is the hard-necked garlic that grows scapes, not the usual soft-neck one.
    Here is what they say:
    “Technically, it is allium sativum ophioscorodon. Unlike the softneck garlic grown commercially, especially in Spain and China, this garlic subspecies produces a hard, woody flower stalk. The flower (topset or umbel) often contains bulbils. Many varieties develop partial or full coils in the stalks (scapes). We have to remove the scape in order to increase the size of the harvested bulbs.”
    Seems I’ll need to try a proper hard-neck, instead of planting shop bought spanish bulbs.

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Lin, I’m so used to growing the hardneck garlic varieties and all of the one’s that I grow produce a stalk and scapes but I should have thought about that… it’s the same reason that you can only use the softneck garlic varieties to braid into garlic wreaths. Good luck with growing some scapes in your garden next season.

  • Julia Southgate

    I’ve been growing garlic in the Ottawa Ontario area now for about 6 years but I’m still learning. I have a question that I’m hoping someone can answer… but first a little background.

    We are a very small producer. We grow about 1800 plants a year. (that’s the number that works best for us for the level of manual effort and the size of our raised bed plots.) We keep about a 1/3 for next year’s seed, eat about 1/3 (or give away to family) and sell about 1/3. The money that we get from the sellings is put back into the garden in soil amendments and straw etc. sort of a win-win on a great hobby. We grow two varieties, Music and Russian Reds (at least that’s what they were called when I bought them at the farmers market years ago) here’s my question:

    With the Music, the cloves are huge but often there are only two jumbo cloves per head! I know that the bigger the clove you plant the better, but are the twosies pre-disposed to produce another batch of twosies? Part of me says plant them and I’ll get bigger heads next year, but that means using up more of my limited yeild on seed. On the other hand, they are not as sellable since there’s only two cloves per head. They are wicked roasted since there is little peeling so maybe I should just keep them for our home use…..

    If you have any feedback for me I would greatly appreciate it!


  • Kenny Point

    Hi Julia, I grow the Music garlic variety every year and have never really noticed bulbs forming with only two cloves. It could be that Music just doesn’t perform well in your growing region… but it sounds like it’s fine for your personal use.

  • Deanna Hayes

    How much of the garlic scape is edible? Can’t seem to find any info on that.

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Deanna, the scapes get tougher the further down you go but all of it is edible… I just snap them off as low as they will easily break off and then use everything including the little bud at the tip.

  • Shirley Obst

    Today I just cut odd the scapes from my garlic, and have a lot of scapes. do they freeze well, and is there a specific method!
    Really enjoyed reading, all the questions and answers, Thank you.
    Shirley. Surrey B. C. Canada

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Shirley, never tried freezing the garlic scapes but don’t see any reason why you couldn’t. Maybe blanch and freeze them similar to green beans?

  • Taras

    Hi Ken, one of the best sources here in the States for info and buying garlic seed is http://www.filareefarm.com in Washington state. They grow and sell hundreds of varieties of garlic. Their catalog is jam packed with so much info that you can use it as a reference. And no I don’t work for them :). I just buy a lot of their garlic.
    In the days before gourmet grocery shops and the Internet, most gardeners didn’t know how many different types and varieties of garlic there were. Most of them bought their seed garlic from the local grocery store. And that was a Italian type of soft neck garlic from California. In all my reading on scape’s the general consensus is to remove the scape.
    A plants ultimate purpose is to produce seeds to reproduce itself. Which takes the energy stored in the bulb. As for Julia and her head of garlic with only 2 hugh cloves, it’s called selective breeding. In the days before genetic modification, plant breeders would select the seeds from plants with the traits they wished to perpetuate and plant them. Selective breeding. After six years of planting your seed cloves from your 2 clove heads of garlic that’s what your are going to get. Use them for food and start using cloves for seed from garlic heads with 6-12 cloves and start your cycle over again. Hope this helps, Taras

    BTW, my favorite way to eat garlic scape’s is to make Dilled Garlic Scape pickles. Just use your favorite recipe for Dilled Green Beans. Yummy. Enjoy

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