Garlic Scape Season is Here!

Dahinda, IL: If you have ever grown hardneck garlic you more than likely have had the long curly flower stalks known as “scapes” appear in the late spring or early summer. In botanical terminology a scape is a long flower stalk emerging from a root, rhizome, or a bulb. Although they do not produce flowers, the scapes of hardneck garlic are the reproductive structure of the garlic plant. Although most types of garlic will produce a stem, it is only the hardneck types that will produce a true scape. Garlic cultivars are grown from seed, but from their bulbs, and have been selected to no longer produce true seeds. Thus, the garlic flowers of most cultivars are sterile but the scapes do produce “bulbils” or small garlic bulbs. These can be planted and with a few years of growing will produce full size garlic bulbs. But the best use of garlic scapes is to use them in dishes that call for a mild garlic flavor.

Garlic Scape

Garlic Scape

The Garlic Farm, West Granby, CT

I find that garlic scapes have a milder flavor than the bulbs, but just like the garlic bulb itself, the scape will vary in flavor from variety to variety. Generally if you like the bulb, you will like the scape. They can be used in stirfries, soups, pasta sauce or ground into a pesto sauce. I like to just sauté them in butter and a little olive oil. They keep in the refrigerator for a few days and can be frozen or dried. They are best picked when young and tender, within a couple of days after they first appear. After that they begin to form the bulbils and the stems become tougher.

Garlic Scapes from Smiling Frog Farm Dahinda, Illinois

Garlic Scapes from Smiling Frog Farm Dahinda, Illinois

In fact, if you do not pick the scape, some of the energy that the garlic plant would put into the production of the bulb will go to the production of the scape. This can result in smaller or less bulbs overall. If you do not grow garlic you can still find scapes at a lot of farmers markets. The season for scapes is short, and the demand is high, so you will have to be on the lookout for them.  The freshest scapes will come, of course, from garlic that you grow yourself. It is not hard to grow and with the hardneck varieties you will get more than one reward from the same plant!

Here are several garlic scape recipes:

Garlic Scape Pesto


1 pound garlic scapes, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

ground black pepper to taste


Blend the garlic scapes, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, lemon juice, and pepper together in a food processor until smooth. Store in the refrigerator to use within two or three days; freeze for longer storage. Scape pesto freezes well, and it holds its green color when frozen usually even better than the traditional basil pesto.


Pickled Garlic Scapes

Ingredients: (For one pint)

About 15 garlic scapes

1 dried chile (optional)

1 cup cider vinegar

4 tsp. kosher salt

4 tsp. sugar



Trim garlic scapes, curl them up, and place them in a pint jar with a tight fitting lid.

Work the chile, if you’re using it, into the jar with the garlic scapes.

In a small saucepan heat the vinegar, salt, and sugar with 1 cup of water until simmering and salt and sugar are dissolved.

Pour warm vinegar mixture over the garlic scapes to cover them (you may not use all of the vinegar mixture). Seal the jar. Let sit until cool, then store in the refrigerator for at least 6 weeks and up to six months.


Grilled Venison and Garlic Scape Sandwiches


1 1/2 pounds venison, slightly frozen and sliced into 1/16-inch slices

8 garlic scapes, minced

1/3 cup canola oil

1/4 cup soy sauce

4 hamburger buns, split

4 slices sharp Cheddar cheese (optional)


Place venison strips in a bowl; sprinkle with garlic scapes. Pour in canola oil and soy sauce; mix well. Cover bowl and let venison marinate for at least one hour.

Preheat grill fitted with fine grate grill topper to medium heat.

Evenly spread venison on the grill topper. Stir occasionally to evenly cook meat until no longer pink, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Warm hamburger buns on warming rack of grill. Divide venison among the buns and top with Cheddar cheese.

(Recipes from

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