Garden Talk: How to harvest garlic scapes, and some things you can do with them

Outdoor garden beds with full grown garlic plants. (Photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO)

Garlic bulbs planted last fall are now full grown and producing scapes. In this week’s episode of Garden Talk, Ed Buyarski talks about what they are and how to use them.

“This garlic in front of us was planted last September or October — covered it over with plastic for the winter and rested till it starts to grow roots, just like tulips and daffodils do in the fall.” Buyarski said. “So they’ve grown almost to their maximum height.”

At this point they have formed scapes, which Buyarski says are “weird-looking curly growth out of the center of the plant.”

Beginner gardeners often have questions about what to do with the strange-looking, coiled scapes. If they’re not harvested, scapes will straighten and grow up to five feet tall. Eventually they’ll form rice-sized baubles that could potentially be used to reproduce the plant, in a few years’ time. 

Close-up of a garlic scape growing from the center of a garlic plant (Photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO)

But Buyarski believes most people will get the best use out of scapes by eating them. He says they “can be chopped into stir fries, into pasta sauce, you can make chimichurri, pesto.”

He compares them to green onions but garlicky and says “some are spicier than others.”  

Buyarski adds that removing scapes also helps the garlic form bigger cloves by redirecting energy into the bulbs.

Ed Buyarski holds a garlic scape that is ready to harvest (photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO)

Garlic scapes can simply be cut or snapped off the plant near the base of the shoot. Buyarkski usually likes to leave them until they just start to curl. However, one day he was out of fresh garlic. 

“So, some of them were cut just as immediately as I saw them.” 

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