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Raise, Grow, Harvest, Eat, Repeat

A blog for growers, consumers, and backyard gardeners to grow, eat, and connect in the local food system.

Save the Scapes!

If you've grown garlic before, a couple of weeks before harvest you'll start to see the stem growing. It will then curve like a tail as shown in the picture below. These are the garlic scapes and you should use them in your cooking!

Garlic scapes are the immature, flowering stems of hardneck garlic. Hardneck varieties are the type of garlic commonly grown in our region. The other garlic category is softneck garlic which has been bred to minimize flower stalk production. Because of this, most do not produce flower stalks at all. Almost all garlic flowers are sterile and only produce the topsets. Typically, garlic scapes will appear midsummer as the garlic bulb gets closer to harvest. Most growers will remove garlic scapes and let the garlic keep growing for a couple more weeks. In fact, it is recommended to remove them as without removing the scapes, it can reduce some of the total bulb production.

Scapes have a mild, garlic flavor similar to the variety of garlic you are growing. I've also been at farmers markets and seen bunches of garlic scapes for sale. If your recipe calls for garlic, replace it with your scapes. Scapes can also be dried and used later on. There are also numerous recipes for scapes themselves include scape pesto.

Since the appearance of the scape is a sign that garlic harvest is around the corner, you want to wait until the leaves of the garlic begin to turn yellow and dry out before harvesting the bulb. You should not wait until all the leaves have died.

To see if your garlic bulb is ready, remove one bulb from the soil to see if it is plump. The paper sheath on the outside of the bulb should also not be removed as this keeps the garlic from getting other bad microorganisms into the bulb. From there, garlic should be removed and dried out in a well ventilated space protected from sun and rain. Once it has dried out for at least a week in this area, it can be moved into your kitchen and stored in a dark, dry area such as a kitchen cupboard. From there, you'll be able to use garlic for a couple of months depending on the variety you have.

Enjoy the scapes of summer!


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