Did you get some garlic scapes in your CSA box? Or maybe you were at the farmer’s market and saw bunches of scapes on display? Either way, if you are wondering how to use garlic scapes or want to know what they are, you have come to the right place!
Garlic scapes have been one of my favorite specialty vegetables ever since I first saw them at the farmer’s market many years ago. I’ve made pesto, risotto, dip, sautes, tossed them on the grill, and more! As long as you like garlic, there are all sorts of ways to enjoy garlic scapes.
What are Garlic Scapes?
In the late spring and early summer you are likely to see bundles of curly, green shoots stacked up at the farmer’s market or at farm stands. What are these curly, green shoots? These shoots are better known as garlic scapes and they are the stalks of hardneck garlic plants.
You may have noticed that sometimes when you buy garlic it’s garlic all the way into the middle and sometimes it has a hard, woody middle bit with garlic around it. The first type is softneck garlic. Softneck garlic does not make a shoot (or garlic scape), but does produce more garlic in each bulb. The second type is hardneck garlic. In a trade off for having fewer garlic cloves, each bulb sends up a spring shoot which can be harvested. In fact, it has to be harvested so that the garlic will invest its energy into growing more garlic and not in flowering. This is a bonus since you get both garlic and tasty garlic scapes from hardneck garlic!
Garlic scapes have a texture similar to asparagus stems, and are tender enough to be eaten raw, while also being sufficiently sturdy to stand up to grilling, roasting, or sauteing.
Where do Garlic Scapes come from?
All garlic is originally from central Asia, where it has been cultivated for over 5000 years, and was used as an important medicinal plant throughout the region from China all the way to Egypt.
Hardneck garlic is the original type of garlic, and does best in cooler climates. (Softneck garlic was developed later, allowing garlic to spread into warmer regions, as well as being easier to farm.) If you are looking for garlic scapes, the first ones usually show up at the market around the middle of spring, and will generally be found in areas with seasonal changes. I live in New England and find scapes in the market by mid to late May most years. If you haven’t already seen them in your CSA or local farm stand, your best bet is to ask around and find out who sells them where you are.
What do Garlic Scapes taste like?
Well…they taste like garlic. 🙂 However, I would say they have a milder, more delicate flavor than garlic bulbs and one which seems a bit grassy or ‘green’ in way. This means you can use a lot of garlic scapes in a recipe without the garlic flavor being overpowering. In fact, they are best raw or quickly cooked, since too much cooking can tame their flavor down to nothing.
I generally like garlic scapes raw, blanched, quickly sauteed, or grilled.
What is the nutritional info on Garlic Scapes?
Garlic scapes are naturally low in fat and calories, while supplying minerals, such as manganese, calcium, phosphorus, and selenium, and vitamins, such as B6 and C. As with other members of the Allium family (such as leeks and onions), garlic and garlic scapes are full of sulfur-rich phytocompounds, antioxidants, allium compounds, and other beneficial micronutrients.
Garlic scapes can 1.) Improve cardiovascular health – reduce blood pressure, improve lipids, help with circulation; 2.) Help prevent illness – by boosting the immune system and warding off various disease causing agents; 3.) Reduce inflammation and osteoarthritis; and 4.) Help fight cancer – due in part to allicin, the substance which gives garlic its strong smell and flavor. Many of these health benefits are only fully available in raw garlic, so including raw garlic scapes in your diet is a great way to get all the nutritional punch without the spice of the garlic cloves.
What part of garlic scapes do you eat?
The entire garlic scape is edible and you can use the whole scape in pestos and other purees.
However, the area from the bulb (where it bulges out) to the skinny tip can be rather tough and stringy, so I discard that portion. (Taste it for yourself and decide if you like it!)
Also, the cut end of the scape can be a bit woody if the scapes are older. The way to check that is to trim off the very end and look at the scape. If it looks dry, trim a little more, and if it looks fresh and green, continue with your recipe.
How to use Garlic Scapes
Anywhere you might use garlic or scallions or leeks are a great place to use garlic scapes! You can make a pesto (great for storing scapes), whip up a dip, throw them on the grill, put them in your sautes, or add them to any other dish you think could use some garlic flavor. I have a few ideas here from around the web on how to use garlic scapes to get you started and a few more of my own.
- Brine Pickled Garlic Scapes
- Garlic Scape Soup with Fresh Spinach
- Grilled Garlic Scapes with Black Pepper
- Garlic Scape Pesto
- Garlic Scape Vinaigrette