What should I do with the loopy stems growing on my garlic plants?
If you’ve noticed curly flowering stems emerging midseason out of your hardneck garlic plants, you’ve probably wondered what to do with garlic scapes. We can help! You should remove garlic scapes so the plants can put all of their energy into growing garlic bulbs. If you don’t remove them, the size of your harvest could be reduced by as much as 30 percent.
Use a sharp knife to cut off the scapes at the base of the curl, but don’t discard this tasty bonus crop. Use garlic scapes just as you would garlic cloves or scallions. The raw scapes have a strong flavor and produce a delicious pesto; simply purée a handful or two of the chopped stems with olive oil, nuts and grated cheese. Cooked scapes are less pungent; chop and add them to soups, sauces and stir-fries for a subtle garlic taste. For more about cooking them, including a recipe for sautéed scapes, check out this Garlic Scapes article.
If a few scapes manage to grow unnoticed and form heads of small, pink-purple bulbils, you can use those, too. Rub the heads between your fingers to separate the individual bulbs, and then sprinkle them atop pizza, salads, eggs or other dishes to add a slightly nutty texture. The bulbils dry easily, too.
Photo by Dreamstime/Danelle McCollum: Pull garlic scapes off of your garlic plants and purée them into a scrumptious pesto.
Vicki Mattern is a contributing editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, book editor and freelance magazine writer. She has edited or co-authored seven books on gardening, and lives and works from her home in northwestern Montana. You can find Vicki on Google+.