This post is aimed at those participating in Crop Sourcing: Project Garlic, but applies to anyone that has the good sense to have planted garlic last fall. Starting in late May or early June, hardneck garlic will put out scapes on top of the plant. The scapes are usually in a curly Q shape and end in a point, that will eventually bulb out and produce bulbils and possibly true seeds. Some of our Project Garlic participants may want to leave these scapes so they can harvest bulbils and expand their garlic “seed” for next season. For more on how to propagate garlic from bulbils, check this link. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can try to grow garlic from true seed (and please let us know how this turns out if you do so).
Whether you are trying to harvest bulbils or not, it’s always a good idea to at least harvest some of your scapes. There are two reasons for this. First, removing the scapes will send more energy to the bulb and will create larger garlic heads (though I should mention this is disputed by some studies and farmers). Secondly, they are delicious! Harvest the scapes after they have formed but before the tip starts to bulb up. They have a mild garlic flavor with a freshness that garlic cloves lose as they mature.
They are great for chopping up and throwing in a stir fry or on top of a salad, but one of my favorite uses is to make a garlic scape pesto with them. You can search the internet for a few different versions of garlic scape pesto recipes, but here’s one of the best ones that I found. There are also some more rustic versions out there without nuts and with lemon or lime juice, but don’t give up on nuts in pesto just because pine nuts are so expensive as there are a lot of alternatives you can use.
If you find yourself using up all your scapes for pesto, you might even have to get some more at the farmers market. And you probably want to make us much as you can because this pesto stores very well in the freezer compared to basil-based pesto sauce.
Happy Harvesting and Eating! And let us know how your scapes are in the comments below.