What are Garlic Scapes and What Can You Do with Them?
Garlic is one of the most used plants in the world and many people enjoy it in their meals. It has amazing health benefits as well as adding a gorgeous flavor to everything from stews to plain bread!
But what are garlic scapes and what can you do with them?
Garlic scapes are flower stems and heads that grow from the center of the leaves just prior to harvest. While garlic is a member of the onion family, we only eat the bulb and the scapes are usually cut to encourage the plant to put more energy into bulb formation and thrown away.
But this is a waste! There is plenty you can do with garlic scapes and here we have listed some ideas so you can get using them.
You should cut garlic scapes when the stalk starts to spiral and then read on to discover how you can save them from being wasted.
What are Garlic Scapes and What Can You Do with Them?
- Steam Them
- Use Them Raw in a Salad or on Jacket Potato
- Pickle Them
- Add Them to Your Cooking Sauces
- Decorate Flower Bouquets
- Store Them in the Freezer
- Make Pesto
- Compost Them
- White Bean and Garlic Scapes Dip
- Make a Soup
- Refrigerate Them
- Make a Cheesy Garlic Flatbread
- Create a Vinaigrette
- Grill Them
- Throw Them into a Risotto
- Replace Garlic with Scapes in a Curry
- Garlic Scape and Beef Satay Sticks
- Wrap Them in Bacon
- Spring Rolls
Image from Food.com
Just like green beans, garlic scapes can be steamed and eaten as an accompaniment to meat or veg dishes. The garlic flavor on a scape is milder than the garlic bulb itself so the result is a pleasant tasting green vegetable with a slight garlic taste. Just chop them into the same sort of size as a green string bean, steam them for around six to eight minutes (depending on how crunchy you like your veg!) and then serve. You could also drizzle them with olive oil or butter and add fried bacon lardons if you want to add a touch of luxury to your scape dish!
You can serve these warm straight onto a plate with a roast lamb or casserole but they are equally as tasty in the summer tossed into a tabbouleh or pasta dish at a barbeque.
Image from Pbs.org.com
Lots of people add raw onions or spring onion into their salads or sprinkle them directly onto a jacket potato for that added flavor. A garlic scape can be used the same way, all you have to do is chop it up! The garlic scape has a milder flavor so unlike a raw onion, it doesn’t have that harshness.
The texture is similar to asparagus so when you chop them into small chunks (think around 1cm size) it will add a little bit of colour and crunch to your salad. Top your jacket potato with some chilli or a tuna mayonnaise mix and then sprinkle on some chopped scapes to add that extra level of flavor.
Try this recipe for a great garlic scape salad.
Image from Serious Eats
Garlic scapes are sadly only available for a set time in the year so make sure you harvest them or buy them from your local farmer’s market quickly. The good thing is, though, you don’t have to add them to every dinner you have for the next month just to use them up!
Much like onions, scapes can be pickled and preserved for use in the future. Just chop them into small enough pieces to fit inside your chosen jar (keep the scapes at roughly the same size as each other or you will get some that are stronger tasting than others) then just add to the jar. Use some white or malted pickling vinegar and you can add some black peppercorns or dill to the jar to add a different flavor to your taste if you prefer.
You need to leave the pickles to cure for at least a week before eating and once you’ve broken the seal on the jar they will last up to a month in the fridge.
When you’re cooking a Bolognese or any other Italian-inspired dish, you will find yourself reaching for the garlic. But if you want a milder flavour, or just to add some colour to your dish, you can use chopped up garlic scapes instead. These little plants can be chopped down into a fine consistency and then mixed into sauces to add a mild garlic flavour. You don’t have to pre-cook or blanch them before, just sprinkle them in as you would do with a fresh herb and then let them simmer in the sauce and release all that wonderful flavor!
Image from Letty’s Kitchen
This does sound weird but if you look at some of the ways garlic scapes have been used in floral arrangements you can see they look stunning. The thick stalks add some modern looks to a traditional bunch of flowers and they even give off a faint scent. Coupled with tropical, brightly coloured flowers they really add something else to an ordinary bunch of flowers and make your arrangement look truly unique.
As they naturally grow in spirals, they look like they’ve been manipulated with floristry wire when they haven’t! The added wackiness will definitely make your bouquet a talking point!
Image from Sfgate
We can’t always eat enough scapes as the season is so small, but we can save them in the freezer for use throughout the year.
First, rinse off the scapes to remove any dirt, debris and bacteria they might have picked up. This is important as not only do you not want to freeze dirt inside your freezer but it also stops the scapes breaking down when they are stored. You can then chop them into small chunks or even freeze them whole depending on what you like to use them for in the kitchen.
Bundle them up into a mesh bag and blanch them quickly in boiling water on the stove for 30 seconds only. This again helps to kill off any bacteria on your scapes. As soon as you take your scapes out of the boiling water, throw them into ice water quickly to stop them cooking. Spread them out thinly on a baking sheet and then put into the freezer. Spreading them out stops them sticking together. Once they’ve frozen, shake them into a freezer bag and store.
Pesto is one of the most versatile ingredients in any kitchen. You can mix it into a pasta, add it to a sandwich or even use it to top a bowl of new potatoes. If you have a food processor, making garlic scape pesto (or any time of pesto really) is a breeze. Just throw all of the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until it resembles a fine paste.
It will keep in a pot in the fridge for around a month or you can freeze it to make it last up to a month.
While we’re trying to save scapes and use them for food, you might not like the taste or just prefer not to add garlic to your food. In this case, save them from landfill sites by adding them to your compost heap. The scapes are a green material which means they are high in nitrogen and will add nutrients to your soil. The garlic small can also deter pests from your compost heap so it is ideal to add some scapes if you are adding leftovers or kitchen scraps to your compost.
It isn’t always a waste as some scapes are too tough or “woody” to be used in food and you will always have a few offcuts from the scape you can’t use for dishes. Chop these scapes into smaller pieces to help them break down faster and mix them into your composter or heap.
Image from Joy Love Food
As the holiday season approaches, buying in snack foods for your guests can get expensive. One of the easiest and most popular snacks to lay out on a buffet for guests is chips and dip. Rather than buying in the usual sour cream and chive style dips, why not make your own? This recipe for a white bean and garlic scapes dip is simple to make and will keep for a week or so in the fridge or you can freeze it for around a month if you are making it ahead of time.
Serve with some chunky bread, tortilla chips or simple breadsticks for a fuss-free snack.
Image from Jarohoney
Garlic added to any soup adds a brilliant depth of flavor and you’ll find it in most tins or packets of soups sold at supermarkets. It’s brilliant for fighting off colds so if you’re retreating with a warm soup then adding garlic is the way to go. To use garlic in your soup, just sauté off the garlic scapes in a pan with a little olive oil and maybe some onion or other herbs depending on the type of soup you are making.
When the scapes are soft to the touch, add them to your soup mixture on the stove and then put the whole thing into the food processor to blend into a smooth soup. If you prefer a chunky soup, then just add the scapes at the end and allow them to soften in the broth itself.
When storing scapes, you have to be aware they don’t last too long. But if you’re planning on keeping them for a week or so and using them in different dishes, then the fridge is the best place to store them. If you wash them and put them in a plastic bag, scapes should keep in your fridge for up to three weeks. Some people say using a paper bag extends the life of your scapes in the fridge to up to a month.
Image from Farm Fresh Feasts
There’s nothing more luxurious than a cheese-topped flatbread oozing with garlicky goodness. But you can replace the usual ground or diced garlic bulb with scapes and still get great tasting bread. Just chop the scapes finely so they resemble the parsley usually added to bread and mix with olive oil or just sprinkle straight onto the bread itself. Hold the whole thing together with your choice of grated cheese (or cheeses) and then pop under the grill until the cheese begins to bubble.
Serve with a light side salad or as an accompaniment to a pasta dish.
Image from Abundant Harvest Kitchen
Just like pickling scapes, you can also turn them into a garlic flavoured vinaigrette for your salads. The brilliant thing about this is it helps the scapes last longer while also giving you a mild tasting dressing to drizzle over your salads. Blend with basil, vinegar and lemon juice until thoroughly mixed together. You can decant this into a jar or a pouring bottle and then drizzle over dishes or even just pour into a dish and add balsamic vinegar for an excellent dip for fresh bread.
Image from With Food and Love
Just like asparagus, you can grill your garlic scapes and just eat them. The best way to do this is heat up a griddle pan so it is hot and then oil your scapes lightly. Break off the harder tops and make sure they are roughly the same size so they cook evenly. Using tongs, add the scapes to your pan one by one until they are chargrilled and have started to blacken in lines on the outside. The scapes will only need about as long as you would cook an asparagus spear so tailor it to your own preferences.
You can add herbs or sauce after the scapes are grilled to your liking. Sprinkle with some sea salt and black pepper to taste.
Image from Seasons and Suppers
Risotto is one of the tastiest, most warming dishes you can enjoy through autumn and winter. But it can also be a bland looking dish as the colour is often just a white or cream without much to look at. When you’ve spent hours slaving over a stove and stirring it to get it perfect, it can look a little disappointing on the plate! This is where garlic scapes come in really useful for adding some colour and flavor to your dish.
Using orzo pasta and a fine chicken or vegetable stock, make your risotto as you would do normally. When you are around five minutes from serving, add in some finely chopped garlic scapes for a burst of colour and fragrance. This is an excellent way to use up frozen scapes since they can just be added and stirred in.
Image from Abcds of Cooking
Most curries call for a base of onion and garlic to start. Chefs sweat off these ingredients first before adding the base of the sauce – whether that is tomato, ghee or cream. But if you don’t have garlic, or you just want to add a milder flavor to your dish, chopped garlic scapes work just as well.
A great addition is coconut and adding scapes to a coconut milk curry won’t overpower the delicate flavourings and adds something extra to your overall meal.
Image from food52.com
This is a great way to use up your garlic scapes which are too “woody” to be eaten directly or chopped up and added to dishes. This will also flavor your meat at the same time. These tasty additions will be a talking point at your next gathering for sure! Just make some scape skewers by using the “woody” scapes filed down into a sharp point at one end. Take your beef, lamb or pork (any meat works with this really!) and thread them straight onto the skewers. You might want to marinade the meat first or you can leave it plain with just a little salt and pepper and let the garlic flavor come out of the scapes.
When you’ve threaded them all on, just lay them in a hot pan and sear them until cooked. Serve with satay dipping sauce and cool yoghurt.
Image from Cold Garden
As we’ve mentioned above, garlic scapes really are quite similar to asparagus spears. They have a similar consistency and cook the same. The only difference is the flavour! This makes them perfect to adapt for one of the most common asparagus dishes – wrapped in bacon with a hollandaise sauce.
Just take your scapes and some good, meaty bacon, then wrap them carefully. You want to start from the top and make sure the bacon overlaps slightly so it doesn’t come unravelled when cooking. Once all of your scapes are wrapped, simply place them into a pan on a high heat and griddle until the bacon is browned. Serve alone or with a simple sauce. Bacon wrapped garlic scapes! Yum!
Image from Naturally Ella
Spring onions are what we most associate with vegetable spring rolls but scapes can be chopped and used in much the same way. The scapes need to be chopped into long, thin pieces and then rolled into a thin pastry or steam-able pancake. The spring rolls can either then be deep fried or for a healthier option add them to a steamer alongside some gooey pork dumplings and steam for about four to five minutes.
So, the next time you harvest your garlic plants and turn to toss those scapes straight in the trash, just stop and think back to this list. There are so many ways you can use garlic scapes and the milder garlic taste complements so many dishes.
Freeze them, preserve them or whizz them up into a pesto, just don’t throw them away! We hope you have found this list helpful and it will give you some ideas for recipes in the future. Please comment below with your ideas and share this list with your friends.