Green Garlic Scapes
garlic plant
(Image credit: Zbynek Pospisil)

Garlic is an easy to grow plant that is used for its bulb and its greens. Garlic scapes are the first tender green shoots on garlic which will become bulbils. They are edible when young and add a delicate garlic flavor to salads, soups, and sauces. You can use them just as you would use chives. Most gardeners wouldn't encourage growing garlic scapes but when they appear, remove them and use them for early spring flavor.

What is a Garlic Scape?

Garlic scapes are curly tendrils of greenery that come up from hard necked garlic plants. They terminate in something that looks like a bud. If you let the scape grow, it will flower with a wiry, white-tipped cluster of tiny blooms. Each bloom will swell at the tip and produce seeds that bloat and turn brown. The protuberances become bulbils or tiny bulbs, which may be planted and will become garlic in three to four years. They can be removed without damaging the plant and eaten when young.

Growing Garlic Scapes

There's nothing you need to do to grow garlic scapes other than to plant garlic. Their formation is a natural part of the garlic growth cycle and part of the plant's reproductive process. Provide good care to the garlic and watch in spring for the curly slender stems. Cutting scapes of garlic is an early season activity in March or April. If you allow the scapes to develop, they become woody and lose their flavor.

Should I Cut Garlic Scapes?

Cutting scapes of garlic off the plant is an individual decision. Many gardeners believe that the removal of the scapes will increase the bulb production because the plant can put its energy into the underground growth. You can also leave them and allow them to mature so you can harvest the bulbils for future harvests. Consider the size of cloves you like to have when you ask yourself, “Should I cut garlic scapes?” If you're trying to grow monstrous garlic, you will likely want to remove the scapes.

How to Harvest Garlic Scapes

The only tools necessary for cutting scapes of garlic are scissors and a container. Cut the scape at the base of the plant. You can eat the slim green leaves and the bud-like structure. You can also just pinch or bend off the stems. They should snap off easily. Rinse them and put them in a glass of water or in a zip top bag in the refrigerator where they will keep for several days.

Using Garlic Scapes

Once you've tried these little delicacies, you will never wonder, what is a garlic scape? The fresh, delicate garlic flavor will be imprinted on your culinary memory with recipes to follow. Use garlic scapes in soups, stews, and sauces. Slice them into salads or sauté them as a quick addition to pasta. Use them to flavor foods like fish or go crazy and make them into a flavorful pesto. These flavorful shoots are too good to waste.

Bonnie L. Grant

Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.