I love to see the arrival of garlic scape season. For me, it means the mid-season vegetables like cucumbers and zucchini are around the corner. Plus, scapes are just delicious!
Garlic scapes are the stalks of flower buds on growing garlic bulbs. If you are growing garlic yourself, you want to cut off the stalks, so that the plant doesn’t waste energy on flowers, and spends it all on developing the bulbs. Luckily, the stalks are edible, so it’s a win-win situation.
Not all garlic produces scapes. There are two main types of garlic, called hardneck and softneck. The garlic you buy in grocery stores are usually softnecks, because they are easier to plant using machines. Hardneck garlic needs more care when planting, and so is less preferred by commercial growers. But only hardneck varieties produce scapes. This means that you won’t find scapes in your grocery store, so look for them in your local farmer’s market, if you are not growing them yourself.
Harvest the scapes when they are young, or else they become strong tasting and woody. Young scapes have a mild garlic flavour, and are tender enough to be eaten raw. Garlic scapes will form a loop, then a double loop, then eventually straighten out to start to flower. They are best when there is still only a single loop.
Young scapes can be eaten raw (eg. in salads), or grilled for a few minutes on the BBQ. You can substitute scapes for garlic in your favourite recipe. If you get ones that are woody, you can always make garlic scape butter. We also like to dry ours in the food dehydrator, then use a coffee grinder to pulverize them into garlic scape powder.
Garlic scapes are in their prime for a very short window, about two weeks, so you need to move fast to take advantage of this fantastic food!