What Are Garlic Scapes and How Do You Cook With Them?

published Jun 4, 2024
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Debbie Wee

As spring heats up into summer, garlic starts to mature and send up bright-green shoots. It’s garlic scape season. Garlic scapes are a seasonal treat that can add garlicky flavor to everything from pesto to quiche, but what exactly are they? Here, we break down everything you need to know about garlic scapes — including how to use them.

Quick Overview

What Are Garlic Scapes?

Garlic scapes are the long, curly green shoots that grow above the ground from a bulb of garlic. They have a grassy garlic flavor that becomes sweeter and more muted when cooked.

All About Garlic Scapes

Garlic scape shoots are long, green, and have a little flower bud on the end. They grow directly from the garlic bulb — aka a head of “traditional garlic.” When the buds open up, that means the garlic bulb is ready to harvest for traditional garlic. However, garlic scapes are typically trimmed from the plant before the bud on the tip of the shoot opens up because otherwise the plant directs energy and nutrients to the shoot and away from the bulb, resulting in less robust traditional garlic bulbs. Garlic scapes have a milder, less assertive garlic flavor than garlic cloves. Their flavor is also described as more “fresh” and “grassy” than traditional garlic.

How to Prepare Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes can be eaten raw or cooked. The bulb on the end of the long shoots as well as the stem end should be trimmed away, as they can be tough and fibrous. Although, the seeds inside the bulb can add crunch and garlicky flavor when used as a garnish.

How to Store Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes will last up to three weeks stored in the refrigerator in a zipper-lock bag. Leave the bag slightly open to allow for airflow.

To freeze garlic scapes, store in a zipper-lock freezer bag for up to one year.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Debbie Wee

What to Do with Garlic Scapes

Raw garlic scapes are edible, but tough, so if you’d like to eat them raw, try making them into a pesto, or purée that can be stirred into soups or mixed into salad dressings or dips. Garlic scapes are also great candidates for pickling. You can pickle them alone, or chop them and add them to batches of other pickled vegetables. Thinly slice scapes or roughly chop them in a food processor and then mix them into a garlicky compound butter. 

If you plan to cook your scapes, there are lots of options. They can be simply chopped and sautéed with olive oil, added to stir-fries, or blended into soups. Bear in mind that garlic scapes are pretty hardy, if you’re sautéing them with other vegetables, add them first so they have a few extra minutes of cooking time. Garlic scapes are also a great candidate for the grill. You can grill them whole, like scallions, or add them to foil packets with other vegetables or proteins like salmon.

Recipes to Try with Garlic Scapes

Try adding raw, puréed, or lightly cooked garlic scapes to these dishes for an extra hit of garlicky flavor.