Sylvia Meo, R.D.
Garlic Scapes 101
When June rolls around I eagerly and impatiently await the arrival of delicious garlic scapes in our Quebec farmer’s markets. To think that only a few years ago I had yet to discover this wild-looking stalk which has become one of my favorite vegetables!
Sadly still undiscovered by many, garlic scapes are essentially the curly, tender stem, which along with its small flower bud grows out from the bulbs of the hardneck garlic plant. They are usually cut off and harvested before they flower in order to allow the bulbs to grow and produce a more flavorful garlic which is harvested in late summer.
I felt it was important to introduce you to them because not only are they incredibly tasty, but if they remain unknown, thousands of garlic scapes grown in Quebec each year will end up back in the field to be composted thus further contributing to our growing food waste problem. So by getting to know and eat them you are not only doing your part in the garlic's growth cycle but also in reducing food waste!
Taste, Texture and Availability
When compared to garlic, garlic scapes are much more delicate in flavor, less spicy or fiery and easier to digest. Once cooked you definitely won’t have to worry about fending off vampires! I personally find they taste like asparagus lightly seasoned with garlic and their texture reminds me that of green beans.
They are normally available in Quebec from mid-June until the end of August, so definitely do not miss your chance to finally get to discover and taste them this year! Garlic scapes are usually found in farmer's markets, I always get mine at Jean-Talon Market in Montreal. If you find some at the beginning of the season, when the scapes are even more tender and addictive, don't pass the opportunity to try them at their peak!
How to Prepare Them?
Garlic scapes are very versatile, fully edible and can be consumed both raw and cooked. You can easily use them to replace garlic or scallions in any recipe, you can sauté, purée, grill, roast, or even pickle them! Add them to a vegetable stir fry or omelet, use them as a pizza or burger topping, turn them into a dip or sauce. All you have to do is chop off the tips and bulbs, when the scapes are really tender I even keep them on (see image below), run them under water to remove any dirt, and start chopping and dressing them.
As shown below, my personal favorite ways to use and eat garlic scapes are by grilling them whole, simply tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, or by blitzing them into a chimichurri sauce where I replace the garlic and shallots in the original recipe with finely chopped garlic scapes. These two very simple and easy ways to prepare them have been instrumental in turning many of my guests into garlic scape addicts!
You can also revamp your favorite pesto recipe by replacing the garlic and up to half of the basil with these tasty stems. Don’t forget to make a little extra and freeze it in your ice cube trays or small glass jars and pop one cube out or crack a jar open at any time to season a dish or stir into a pot of steaming pasta and get to breathe in and relive those tasty summer memories throughout the year.
Nutritional Benefits and Storing Tips
Like most vegetables garlic scapes are also very low in calories, offering roughly 30 calories per 100 gram serving. They are a good source of fiber, vitamins A and C, in addition to being rich in antioxidants.
Because garlic scape season is very short, if you do get your hands on them don’t hesitate to stock up. They keep very well in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator, I've easily kept mine fresh up to 3-4 weeks when stored in a brown paper bag, and can also be stored in Mason-type jars and kept in the freezer for up to a year.
Here’s my Foodful Tip for freezing garlic scapes without the stems sticking to one another: place the scapes on a baking sheet without overlapping them, let them freeze for a few hours and then transfer them to an airtight container or bag and keep in your freezer until you get a craving for them!