Real Food Encyclopedia | Garlic Scapes

A short-seasoned spring treat, the  garlic scape (aka garlic shoot or curl) is the young stalk of the garlic plant. Like its brothers and sisters in the Allium family, garlic (Allium sativum) grows underground, developing into a soft bulb. As the bulb grows and hardens, a green shoot pokes its head through the ground and curls like a pig tail before straightening. Eaten tender and green, the scape has a mild garlicky, scallion-like taste and an asparagus-like texture. If left on the plant, the scape hardens into what we know as the garlic stalk (or neck) and the bulb below never reaches its full potential.

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Fun facts about garlic scapes

  • Native to central Asia, garlic eventually made its way to the Mediterranean, where it remains a central ingredient of the region’s heart-healthy, disease-fighting diet. It is believed to have made its way to North America via European settlers during colonial times and revered for its medicinal rather than culinary benefits until the early 20th century.
  • Devotees of Lord Krishna, also known as Vaishnavas, abstain from garlic because it is considered a distraction to devotion practices. Similarly, in Ayurvedic medicine, garlic is considered rajasic, which means it may stimulate passion, a detour from meditation.

What to look for when buying garlic scapes

Scapes should be firm but flexible, and free of blemishes or moldy spots. As they age, scapes will fade and brown, similar to what happens with a scallion.

Sustainability of garlic scapes

Because of their short season and brief shelf life, you’ll likely only be able to find scapes through farms stands, CSA boxes or farmers’ markets.

Garlic scape seasonality

Garlic scapes generally make their brief appearances in late spring, staying on only fleetingly through early summer.

 

Eating Garlic scapes

Storing Garlic scapes

Store in the refrigerator and use within a week, as the stalks will eventually soften and lose their punch. Trim the end that was formerly attached to the bulb and discard the flowery blossom, as it tends to be stringy. You could also blanch (quick boil) for 60 seconds, followed by an ice bath, then freeze for when you get a scapes hankering later this year (and you will).

Cooking with garlic scapes

Slice thinly (about one-fourth-inch pieces) and use garlic scapes like you would green onion or other fresh alliums. Sauté and incorporate into fried rice, omelets, stir-fries or as a pizza topping. Try them pickled, but really what we wait for all year long is to make batches of pesto — to be tossed into pasta, spread onto sandwiches, lathered onto bruschetta and dipped with grilled vegetables.

Garlic scapes nutrition

Bulb garlic has long been known for its healing properties, a motherlode of anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral agents, as well as cholesterol-lowering magic powers. We can only assume that as a part of the plant, the scape has some of these disease-fighting attributes.