What Are Garlic Scapes—And How Do You Cook With Them?
As avid plant and food lovers, little brings us more joy and hope after a long, frigid winter than seeing spring's first shoots pop up out of the soil. Along with asparagus, hearty leafy greens, peas, and ramps, garlic scapes are among the first harbingers of a full season of garden fun ahead.
Since garlic scapes are not exactly a household name across the U.S. (especially compared to their relative, garlic bulbs), you might not know what to do with garlic scapes. If this hits home, we have three pieces of great news:
- Thanks to their flavor and texture, garlic scapes recipes can feature the plant as a vegetable, fresh herb, or aromatic.
- With that in mind, there are many stellar options for how to cook garlic scapes.
- This guide to cooking garlic scapes will coach you through it, even if you're unfamiliar with what they look like, where to buy garlic scapes, and how to cut garlic scapes.
Read on for all the dirt. You might just dig up your new favorite spring vegetable!
What Are Garlic Scapes?
Unlike most fruits and vegetables that have one season, garlic actually has two. You're likely familiar with the second, which hits in late summer and involves the large bulbs you know and love from recipes like our brilliant muffin tin Roasted Garlic and Ina Garten's epic Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic.
The first harvest hits in late spring and early summer and involves garlic scapes. Harvesting the garlic scapes is actually an important part of garlic's life cycle. If gardeners and farmers allowed the scapes to grow all season, the plant would squander energy to lengthen the stem and flower and the resulting garlic bulb would be smaller and far less flavorful. So think of cooking garlic scapes as a way to promote beautiful bulbs a few months later.
In generations past, many people simply composted or tossed scapes. But now, garlic scapes are gaining in popularity as an ingredient worthy of their own spotlight—and of selling and savoring.
Garlic scapes are the tender stem and flower bud of the hardneck garlic plant that also produces the garlic bulbs with many cloves. Scapes grow out of the top of each garlic bulb, then coil into long, skinny, green stems that look somewhat like tender, twirly green beans or green onions. Their texture is akin to fresh, slim asparagus stalks.
In case you missed it, garlic is actually part of the onion family, so garlic scapes are relatives of green onions, shallots, and the alliums you probably cook with frequently. But garlic scapes are not green onions, nor are they green garlic or ramps. Here's the difference:
- Green onions, also known as scallions, are a different plant—unlike how garlic scapes are the stem of the bulb of garlic. They taste like a mild onion.
- Ramps are their own plant as well, and taste similar to leeks and onions.
- Green garlic is a young garlic plant that's harvested before the bulb is fully mature and developed. Garlic scapes are more crisp than softer green garlic, and garlic scapes also pack more of a flavor punch. Feel free to use green garlic and garlic scapes interchangeably, if desired.
Raw garlic scapes are tamer than raw garlic cloves, yet still offer plenty of fresh, oniony, herbaceous, and pungent flavor. Since garlic scapes taste "greener" than regular garlic, we find its flavor reminiscent of garlic and chives.
How to Cook With Garlic ScapesGet the Recipe
Before we dive into how to cook garlic scapes, we want to address a common question: "what part of garlic scapes do you eat?" For the most pleasant texture, use the slim stem in the middle. Wash the garlic scapes, then trim off the end and the bud. Garlic scapes recipes showcase them raw or cooked, sliced thin or cooked whole. If you remember one thing from this piece, let it be this: If you're stumped about how to use garlic scapes, just use them any way you might with garlic, green garlic, or green onions.
Here are eight of our favorite garlic scapes uses:
- Pesto. Replace some or all of the fresh basil in your favorite pesto recipe (or follow our Garlic Scape and Basil Pesto recipe) for a sauce/dip that practically shouts, "spring is here!"
- Grilled. Toss garlic scapes with oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill garlic scapes until slightly charred and tender, about 10 minutes. Use tongs to flip the garlic scapes once halfway through the cooking time. Garnish with a squeeze of lemon juice, grated or shaved Parmesan cheese, and Marcona almonds, if desired.
- Sautéed. Slice garlic scapes stems into 1- to 2-inch pieces. In a skillet over medium heat, cook the sautéed garlic scapes for about 5 minutes or until tender. Fold into frittatas, add to stir-fries, use as a pizza topping, or enjoy as part of a grain bowl.
- Roasted. If you want to try eating garlic scapes bulbs, roasted garlic scapes are the way to go. This allows the thicker tops time to tenderize. On a large sheet pan, toss garlic scapes with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 425 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes, using tongs to toss halfway through, until golden brown and crispy.
- Dressings. Add finely-diced garlic scapes to your store-bought or homemade salad dressing.
- Butters. Fold thinly-sliced raw garlic scapes, a healthy pinch of salt, and a squeeze of lemon into softened butter for a next-level bread spread.
- Clove replacement. Any time you might use garlic cloves as an aromatic for a recipe, feel free to trade in thinly-sliced garlic scapes. Toss them in at the stage the recipe calls for adding minced or diced garlic. Keep in mind that sautéed garlic scapes mellow out a lot, so use about three times as much garlic scapes as you would use regular garlic cloves. (For example, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon minced garlic, use 3 tablespoons of diced garlic scapes stems.)
- Pickle. Slice garlic scapes stems into 4-inch pieces (or whatever will fit your canning jars) and follow your favorite pickle brine recipe to give them tons of tangy flavor.
How to Store Garlic Scapes
Garlic scapes season typically runs from late spring to early summer. The season is short, and some farmers and gardeners still toss them, so if you're lucky enough to spy garlic scapes, stock up! Look for garlic scapes at your farmers market, Asian supermarkets, and grocery stores.
Store garlic scapes in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks. To extend their life, try pickling (as we mentioned above) or wash, slice, and freeze garlic scapes in an airtight freezer-safe bag for up to 6 months.