What’s the Difference Between Green Garlic and Garlic Scapes?

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: EQRoy)

Regular hardneck garlic is easy to identify — dried little white paper bulbs that taper off at the top — but what about the bright-green versions of garlic you often see at farmers markets labeled green garlic and garlic scapes? Are those really the same thing? And how are they related to the garlic plant?

The Difference Between Green Garlic and Garlic Scapes

Green garlic is young garlic with tender leaves that is harvested early in the season before the bulb is fully formed. Garlic scapes are the curly shoots from the plant that form later in the season into curly green stalks that have tightly closed buds on top.

(Image credit: Erin Gleeson)

What Is Green Garlic?

The easiest way to think about green garlic is that it’s baby garlic. It has a long green top that looks a bit like scallions, sometimes a tiny bulb at the end, and it may even be tinged with a bit of pink. Green garlic is more mellow and less spicy in flavor then regular garlic, and is usually harvested in the spring.

How to Use Green Garlic

Any recipe that calls for garlic — sautés, sauces, roasts, and more — can be substituted with green garlic. Since it’s a bit more mild, you may want to use more to get a stronger flavor. That also means you can use it raw, like you would scallions, without worrying about a biting pungency.

Green Garlic Recipes

(Image credit: EQRoy)

What Are Garlic Scapes?

Garlic scapes come along a little later in the season. As the garlic plant matures, it sends up bright-green shoots that curl beautifully and have closed buds on top. When the buds, called seed pods, open up, that means the garlic bulb is ready to harvest for traditional garlic.

Edible garlic scapes are harvested before the seed pods open up. They’re trimmed from the garlic plant since the scapes draw nutrients away from the bulbs if left untouched, and they’re harvested in late spring or early summer.

Garlic scapes start out tender, but get tougher as they mature, and they have a more tender-crisp texture than soft green garlic. In terms of flavor, garlic scapes are stronger in flavor than green garlic, but still taste like garlic with a fresher, more vegetal flavor.

How to Use Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes can also be enjoyed raw or cooked. They’ll be a bit more potent raw than green garlic is, but they really do blend into dreamy pestos and dips. Or mellow their bite by sautéing or grilling them. They generally can also be substituted for green garlic and vice versus.

Garlic Scape Recipes