What are Scapes?
Garlic is generally grown for its cloves, and if you’ve only bought supermarket garlic, you might not know about scapes. Hardneck garlic sends up a flower stalk that will develop seeds if allowed to remain on the plant. The immature flower buds are known as scapes. Scapes are edible and can be used in recipes just like cloves, as well as being dried, frozen or pickled.
Hardneck vs. Softneck
Softneck garlic does not send up flower stalks or produce scapes. You must plant hardneck varieties to obtain scapes. This means the scapes must be cut off the plant (whether you want to eat them or not) to prevent them from diverting energy from the cloves. Hardneck garlic generally produces fewer but larger cloves than softneck garlic. The cut scapes give you an early taste of your garlic crop.
Best Varieties for Scapes
Although most hardneck garlics produce good scapes, each offers something different:
- Belarus is a Purple Stripe variety that produces the earliest scapes, followed by Turban varieties.
- Purple Stripes, Porcelain and Rocamboles are considered the best-tasting scapes.
- Marbled Purple Stripes and Siberians are the best scapes for flowers.
- Asiatics and rocamboles provide the largest bulbils (mini garlic bulbs that can be planted).
Cutting Scapes for Flowers
Garlic flowers can make quite a display and are great for arrangements. The scapes grow a long stalk that curves into one or more loops, with multiple flowers in a head at the end of the stalk. You can cut the scapes at any point in their development for cut flowers. Cut some that are just beginning to curl and others with flower heads for the most effective arrangement.
Cutting Scapes to Eat
Garlic scapes taste just like the bulbs, although the flavor may be more mild. For eating, cut the scapes when they have made one complete curl. Since hardneck garlic is usually fall-planted, scapes will be ready to cut for eating around late May or early June. However, this may vary by variety or be affected by weather conditions.
Don’t Skip the Scape Harvest
Whether you want to eat them or not, you should cut off the garlic scapes. Allowing them to grow means they will use water and nutrients that would otherwise go to the cloves. In this case, you can cut them as soon as they appear. Continue to check for new scapes, as they appear over several weeks.