Garlic Scapes: What They Are and How to Use Them

We all know garlic – that pungent vegetable keeping very busy by adding flavor to countless dishes worldwide. But what are these garlic scapes we keep hearing about? The ones with the curly green shoots that look like large chives? Well, garlic scapes are the trendy sibling – the twirly-topped extra charismatic version of the cherished pantry staple.

So, if you’ve ever wondered what these green stalks are at your local farmer’s market and how you’d use them, keep reading!

What are Garlic Scapes?
Garlic scapes are the flower stalks that grow from garlic bulbs. Their deep green shoots grow in late spring or early summer and they’re totally edible. If you’re lucky enough to see them pop up in your garden or you see bunches of curled up scapes at the stand or market, dive in! You’ll be in for a treat!

What Do Garlic Scapes Taste Like?
Raw garlic scapes are oniony and herbaceous, but less pungent than raw garlic cloves. When cooked, they become sweeter, like a delightful cross between roasted garlic and chives. This flavor elevates anything from salad dressings to deviled eggs to pizza toppings. And because the stalks are thin and delicate, they don’t require any special prep before using.

How to Pick Garlic Scapes
Garlic scapes are rarely found in local supermarkets – the farmers market or your own garden is where they’ll be, waiting to be scooped up for any number of culinary creations! They’ll be a vibrant shade of green and tender, with a mild garlic aroma. If the scapes have woody, dry lower stems or flower buds, simply slice them off before using in your recipe. Give them a good rinse and pat them dry.

Before we actually get to the cooking applications of these unsung darlings, let’s take a minute to note how plain garlic scapes can be used; their long, delicate stalks add colorful and curly visual appeal to charcuterie boards, cocktails (Bloody Marys, anyone?), and on antipasto platters next to sprigs of rosemary and the standard leafy kale filler. Even better, they’re completely edible on their own with a signature subtle onion-y garlic flavor that doesn’t overwhelm the palate.

How to Cook Garlic Scapes
Garlic scapes make a wonderful ‘bed’ for proteins like salmon, chicken breasts, pork loin, and steaks and if you follow a low-carb way of eating, can take the place of starchy sides like potatoes, rice, or pasta. Saute scapes in a small amount of butter, oil, (or even better, bacon grease) until they’re tender and slightly caramelized. Add a pinch of salt and some cracked black pepper and place your protein on top.

Another great way to incorporate garlic scapes into a meal is to cut them into pieces and add them to an Asian stir fry, a fresh vegetable pasta primavera, or to a vibrant bruschetta appetizer with cherry tomatoes, lots of basil, balsamic vinegar, and oil.

Direct heat on the grill or under the broiler is another way to elevate the flavor of garlic scapes. Cooking garlic scapes until they’re tender crisp and lightly charred in this way gives them a deliciously smokey-sweet flavor. Toss them with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, and add them to a grill basket a la carte or with some sliced mushrooms, zucchini, and bell peppers for a delicious side dish.

Don’t forget that garlic scapes can also be used to add flavor to soups and broths far more than chives or green onions can. Simply slice them up diagonally (aesthetics, thank you) to top your favorite soup or simmer them in a broth for a tasty infusion of garlicky goodness.

Pack a few stalks of freshly cut garlic scapes into your jars of pickles or olives and let them marinate in the fridge for a week or two. Now you have instant pickled garlic scapes to use as colorful cocktail garnishes and tasty additions to antipasto platters, cheese boards, cold salads, or a tangy snack!

We had to save the best for last; garlic scapes make the most ah-mazing pesto! Whir them up in a food processor with nuts (we prefer walnuts over pine nuts), parmesan cheese, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt until you have a smooth, brightly flavored pesto to whisk into pasta, drizzle over grilled meats and veggies, or to use as a dressing on burgers, sandwiches, or even baked potatoes!

TEST KITCHEN TIP: freeze garlic scape pesto in ice cube trays and pop one or two out as you need them for dips, sauces, and stir fries!

So, show off your gastronomic genius, grab some garlic scapes and get creative in the kitchen!