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Eating garlic scapes

Harvesting garlic scapes

Garlic scapesWhen we first grew hard-necked garlic, I read that the scapes are a spring delicacy.  However, the ones I tried were woody and sharply pungent, so I just composted the scapes I removed in later years.  (If you don't pluck off the scapes, your garlic plants will put energy into growing scapes instead of into bulb production, resulting in a smaller harvest, so don't just ignore them.)

This year, I learned the error of my ways in avoiding such a delicious food.  As I started cutting off scapes Tuesday morning, I got lazy and pulled on one instead of snipping itCutting scapes.  A long, tender scape base came loose from deep inside the plant.  Just like the grass leaf bases you get the same way, this central core of the scape was sweet and gentle on the tongue.  So that's what people were glowing over!

A few taste tests proved that color is a clear indication of the border between sweet and tender (white) and spicy and tough (green) portions of the scape.  On the youngest scapes, I cut off and discarded the green tips starting at the bulbous portion, but on older scapes, I cut where the white began to show a lot of green.  Depending on your palate, you might want to Broccoli and garlic scapesinclude more or less of the green portion in your meal.

Since our garden also served up the first head of spring broccoli on Tuesday, I broiled the broccoli and scape bases together, resulting in a delicious lunch treat.  Next year, I'm going to keep a closer eye on the scapes so I can harvest them all at their peak!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I love scapes. I had them for the first time last year and they were awesome. So much so that I grew nothing but hardneck garlic this year. My scapes are just starting to appear. I cut them last year, but this year I'll try pulling them instead. So far the main way we eat them is chopped into 1" pieces and sauteed in a olive oil with salt and pepper.
Comment by Fritz Wed May 30 07:08:06 2012
I had the same experience with scapes when we tried eating them last year. They were horrible, and my husband kindly requested that I not cook them again, lol. I JUST put all my cut scapes into the compost yesterday. Guess next year, I'll remember about pulling instead of cutting and try out the tender part. Thanks for the tip.
Comment by Bethany James Wed May 30 09:18:34 2012
Fritz and Bethany --- Funny to hear such different opinions from the two of you! But I can understand both since I've felt both ways. :-)
Comment by anna Wed May 30 12:04:11 2012

So you pull them out from between the leaves? When I try it it seems I might uproot the garlic first.

But, the tough-seeming green part, when sliced lengthways and sauteed, gets a mouthfeel like not overdone (but not too tough) asparagas, and a delightful nutty taste with mild garlic. Yum!

Comment by Wed May 30 12:38:21 2012

I kept my scapes on and only cut them a few weeks before harvest. My goal is to get garlic that will keep 9 or 10 months and also plant the bulbis' for propagation. It really worked last year and I am going on year two of the experiment. The theory behind it came from Growing Great Garlic and personal observation. If the garlic goes through a typical growing cycle, it will not put too much energy into bulb size--at the expense of bulb wrappers and dormancy hormones-not sure if that is correct term:) Jon

Comment by Jon Wed May 30 14:12:47 2012

Joey --- For some reason, our soft-neck garlic are doing something strangely scapelike this year too, but whatever it is doesn't come out easily and is between the leaves not out the top. I can't remember which kind of garlic I gave you, but that could be what's going on at your place --- in that case, I'd leave it alone.

But I think I gave you hard-neck garlic (the really big heads?) In that case, just pull the scapes out carefully. Maybe hold a hand around the base of the plant as if you were teasing a burr out of Leo's hair so you don't uproot it?

(I think you have a higher tolerance for garlic than me, but maybe I'll try your cooking suggestions for the green part. :-) )

Jon --- Fascinating! I've actually been very impressed by how long our hardneck garlic has lasted. I do grow both hardneck and softneck and eat the hardneck first, but it still seems to last until well after Christmas. (Our softneck lasts until the new garlic comes in the next year.) Have you tried a side by side comparison, one batch where you cut the scapes early and one where you leave them on?

Comment by anna Wed May 30 15:48:54 2012
Not yet. Our hard neck garlic lasted from July to just three weeks ago. I think I will try it. Have you read Growing Great Garlic...not sure if some of the examples in his book will cross over to the South.
Comment by Wed May 30 15:56:34 2012
Thecorcoran --- I haven't read that book yet, mostly because over the last few years, we've grown all of our own garlic with next to no effort. :-) But I'll add it to my reading list --- it never hurts to know more!
Comment by anna Thu May 31 07:28:41 2012
My grocery store gets garlic spears for a couple weeks a year and they are my favorite weeks of the whole grocery shopping year!! I coat mine in EVOO, salt and pepper and let them rest for about 30 minutes. Then I simply grill them up and eat with my fingers. Delish with a tender steak or grilled salmon!
Comment by Jess Thu May 31 11:38:18 2012
Jess --- I can't imagine our grocery store carrying garlic spears/scapes. Back when we still bought vegetables from the store, the checkers had to ask what we were buying when we simply wanted some asparagus....
Comment by anna Thu May 31 16:32:34 2012

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