Garlic Scapes. If You’re Growing Garlic Here’s What You Need To Do Right Now.

If you planted your garlic when I told you to last fall, chances are it’s now growing squiggles from the top of it.  Those are garlic scapes and here’s what you need to do with them.


Sorry. Wrong photo.  I mean, those are indeed garlic scapes, but you can’t make a headdress out of them until you can identify and cut them.

THIS is what your garlic scapes probably look like in June.



What Are Garlic Scapes

There are 2 types of garlic: hard neck and soft neck. 

ONLY hard neck garlic grows scapes. Hard neck garlic is grown in cooler climates. If you own a snowshovel, you’re probably growing hard neck garlic and will have scapes that need to be dealt with.

Scapes are the squiggly stems that grow from the centre of the stalk, sprouting in June.

Why Do You Cut Garlic Scapes?

You’re going to want to chop those scapes off because they’re actually the garlic flowers (scientifically speaking they aren’t actually the flowers because they only partly form but that’s all jargon we don’t care about right now.)

The scapes eventually turn into big, puffy, garlic scented flowers, which may seem like a fun thing, but if you let your scapes go to flower then it’ll drain the plant’s energy from forming proper sized heads of garlic. So, you need to trim your scapes.


You can allow some of your scapes to grow and harvest the seeds that eventually emerge after the flowers. These are called bulbils and they can be planted just like you plant a garlic clove but it takes a couple of years before they’ll actually form full heads of garlic.

When to Cut Scapes

The absolute perfect time to cut the scapes off is once they’ve curled into one complete circle like this. But … it’s pretty much whenever you notice them.  

If they’ve done two curls, don’t worry about it, just cut them off and grin to yourself for remembering to do it at all.

If you plan on cooking with the garlic scapes, one curl is better as well because the older the scapes are the tougher and more fibrous they get.


They grow fast those scapes. One morning you have a regular stalk of garlic and the next you’ll have a patch of squiggles.  That’s when it’s time to grab a pair of scissors.

How to Cut Scapes

Just use a pair of regular scissors to cut the scape off where it meets the first leaf it comes to. 

Make your cut on an angle like you would cutting any plant outside, because it allows rain to slip off instead of collect on top. Although, honestly, I don’t think it really matters all that much.

The entire scape is edible, and like I mentioned earlier if they’re young with just one loop they’re very tender. Anything bigger than that and they start to get fibrous, plus the flowers have started forming inside the tip.

Leek Moth in Garlic Scapes

Leek moth lay eggs on garlic scapes, onions, leeks and shallots. Those eggs hatch and then the larvae burrow into the plant and eat their way through it from the top down.

Look for leek moth larvae damage on the leaves at this time of year.

If you have damage like this, spray your garlic with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis)  a soil bourn natural bacteria that disturbs the guts of caterpillars and larvae and stops them from eating. 

You can read more about leek moth and controlling them in this post. 

You can see where leek moth larvae have burrowed into this scape at the tip.

If you cut the tip crosswise, you can see the hole goes down into the scape. So if you eat this scape, you’ll probably be eating larvae as well without any of the added benefits of winning Survivor.

Remove any leaves or scapes with leek moth damage and throw them in the garbage – not the compost pile.  You should also pull up infected plants to help prevent more emergence and damage.

What to do with garlic scapes?

You can throw the scapes into the compost pile, make a necklace out of them, braid them into a dog leash, attach them to a headband for a truly fashionable look good for driver’s license photos, school pictures or scape porn …

or … if you want to be a little more pedestrian you can cook with them.  If you’re boring and have no intention of making it big in garlic scape porn.

Garlic Scape Pesto is the way you want to go for cooking.  I make a double batch every summer with my garlic scapes and freeze it to use throughout the winter.  Plus I eat some immediately of course.  It’s a light, bright, tasting pesto with a mild garlic taste.

So if you grow it, go outside and check for scapes now.  Before the thought eSCAPES you.

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Garlic Scapes. If You\'re Growing Garlic Here\'s What You Need To Do Right Now.


  1. Phyllis keaemer says:

    What will you use to verticalize your squash? Had my pickling cucumbers ready for verticalization … but they decided to shrivel..sniff..!

  2. Rita says:

    Thanks Karen, I did buy the garlic at the grocery store. I’ll get Organic or garlic from seed store from now on.

  3. Tricia Rose says:

    You are just SO avant-garde…

  4. Lynn says:

    I am now suffering from ‘scape’ envy – boo. ;)
    once again you made my day!

  5. Mindy says:

    I bought them for the first time at our farmer’s market this weekend. I just tossed them in some olive oil, seasoned them up with salt and pepper, and grilled them with our steaks. Really, really good. I’m anxious to try them different ways.
    Here’s a shot of them on the grill aka fire pit:

  6. Diane Stairs says:

    just read your “How to Plant garlic now’s the time” blog….excellent…should have looked before I wrote. so helpful.

  7. Lucinda says:

    Love the head-gear. I agree, flower arranging with scapes is the best. But I am also partial to scape pesto……yummmmmmmmy!

  8. Diane Stairs says:

    I live near the Red Hill Valley (King’s Forest golf course) and walk my dog through there. I find wild garlic, pick the scapes and use them in stir fries and for salads….lovely subtle garlic taste…they should never go to waste….but I do love the art you have made with them….so inventive. I would love to plant my own garlic but have yet to do so….suggestions on timing and what kind and how much space etc??? thanks

    • Karen says:

      Diane – Plant in late, late fall. Search “planting garlic” in my search bar to learn all about it. ~ karen!

  9. Debbie B says:

    I officially passed coffee through my nose, scared the crap out of the dogs and might have even peed a little bit in all the confusion, but I just loved the squiggly boo head band and the porn shots!!

  10. mickey says:

    My vegetable gardening days are long gone. The only edible things I have are chives. Oh,and I planted one pea and it’s coming along quite nicely.
    But I would like to comment on the photos and article about you in today’s newspaper. Totally awesome!!!!
    Where did you hide the girls?

  11. peggy says:

    Thank you SO much. No wonder I always had these puny little garlic buds. You are wise as well as extremely witty!!!

  12. Laura Bee says:

    After I wiped the tears from my eyes…I checked my garlic. I think I have the softneck variety. No scapes. Thanks for holding my hand through this adventure. (Those pics are better than any others I have ever seen from a photo booth!)

  13. Shauna says:

    We never got scapes on our garlic??? What’s that all about. They were totally ready to picked too – they were the most fragrant, strong garlic EVER! YUM. But, alas, no scapes for me to make headbands with.

    • Karen says:

      Shauna – You had a different type of garlic. Hardneck varieties grow scapes, softneck do not. ~ k!

      • Shauna says:

        OOOHHHHH, you really do know everything! We just took a couple of cloves we bought from the farmers market and planted it and were so excited when we were rewarded with more garlic.

  14. Carole McGinnis says:

    Karen, I just love you – you make me laugh so hard. I love your crazy mind.

  15. Ruth says:

    My garlic recently kicked the bucket due to drought and water shortage, so I guess I’ll just live vicariously through all your scape experiences. :-/

  16. Dawna Jones says:

    Karen you are definitely Porn Star worthy!
    PS show em your grASS crack!

  17. Rita says:

    Hi Karen,
    I DID plant garlic last fall but it hasn’t appeared yet :(
    Don’t know why. Maybe it was the -40C overnight low we got in January. I thought I should be seeing little shoots by now. I didn’t think to water it after the snow left so it sat dry for about a month. Maybe that was it. Oh well. Better luck next Spring. I’m already planning to plant tons of the stuff this Fall. Thx for the design tips with the Scapes – they look great as an arrangement and hilarious on your head :)

    • Karen says:

      Rita – If the garlic hasn’t come up by now it isn’t going to. Did you get your garlic at the grocery store? If you did, it was probably treated with a sprout inhibitor. In the fall buy organic garlic to plant, or go to a local nursery or seed store to buy garlic specifically for planting. ~ karen!

  18. Spokangela says:

    The hubs and I just noticed our scapes the other day. Fine Cooking had some great recipes for them. I am looking forward to trying them. After I make a headband out of them…

  19. Angie S says:

    A Garden for the House just had this recipe for scapes pesto – sounds great!!!

  20. CC says:

    I did not plant any this year I am new to your blog, but hopefully I will next. All I can say is you are hysterical and the LOL just makes my day Karen, thank you

  21. Krista says:

    So jealous, scapes sell for 4.99 a pound here in Seattle because they are delicious! sauteed in a little olive oil, taste somewhat like garlic scented asparagus.

  22. susan says:

    I even pickled a jar of scapes last year. I use them in chopped salds, pesto, sauces…… now my mouth is watering! BTW: Great hat!

  23. Kristen S says:

    Now I want mashed potatoes with garlic scapes, and my garlic hasn’t grown any yet…jealous

    • susan says:

      Salads… sorry for the typo.

      also, the end that gets dry and papery – I make a garlic/onion broth with those….

  24. I love sautéing these little scapes in butter with carrots or collard greens. I also can’t wait until the real garlic is ready. Everything is better with garlic :)

  25. CBuffy says:

    At first glance, I LOVED the flower arrangement. But then, was it just me or did those look a little like alien arms reaching out of an alien egg thing? A little creepy! But still fun! (And I love the hat!)

  26. Susan says:

    I didn’t plant garlic, run outSide cause I would get eaten by bugs or make my picture appear! Wow! What a loser!

  27. Pats says:

    Ok, that headband is not only adorable, it will repel vampires! Double good!

  28. Karen, eat them. No word of a lie, they are amazing. I do them up in a whiz of eevo and sea salt. That’s it….in the cast iron pan even better. Let them get golden and oh. my. name. Yum.
    I like them crispy but not burnt, or they are bitter. You can use them in mashed potatoes, hello! Or instead of beans. Yep, they have a garlic taste and are strong. But, sister in gardening and all things antique….try them. And maybe the girls might like them too…who knows. But eat them. Go to that compost pile, ok, maybe not, but go to that lovely arrangement and steal one out and try it. If you don’t like them, I’ll eat my scape. :)

  29. White says:

    Just a reminder that only hard-neck garlic varieties develop scapes, soft-neck varieties do not. Typically, garlic “braids” are fashioned from soft-neck garlic.

    This is all too obvious for long-time garlic growers, but bears noting for novice growers.

  30. Barbie says:

    I did plant my garlic last fall as always….however I forgot to look for scapes…don’t think I’ve seen any though….perhaps my scapes are behind like the rest of things in my life. I have never cut my scapes before and my garlic is usually always nice a big…so I am looking forward to seeing how much better and bigger my garlic will be this year when I do that. :)

  31. Karen says:

    Thanks for the heads-up! Mine have been doing that for a couple of days and I didn’t know you should cut them off. I just love the way they look in the garden. So I’ll put them in a vase…

  32. Adele says:

    I feel sorry that I “wasted” some scapes that my daughter gave me from her farmer’s box by putting them in my pasta sauce, her suggestion (she’s a fabulous cook, I’m not). Coulda put them in a vase, they are much too beautiful to eat. I need to get more…

    Love your blog, and congrats on the Spec article today. I love your house!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Adele – I haven’t seen the article yet but my mother called me screaming and whooping this morning. I didn’t tell her so it would be a surprise. :) ~ karen

  33. Holly says:

    Scapes and boos? You made that up, right?

  34. marilyn says:

    im excited too…i have to learn how to send u some pics. i do lots of stuff y never know about because i am a luddite..

  35. IrishJenn says:

    I got garlic scapes in my CSA last summer and had no idea what they were. I had to post a picture on facebook to see if any of my friends could help. Whatever did we do before the interwebs?

    BTW, when I have my first, full-on belly laugh at 6:30 am, I feel it sets the tone for the rest of my day. So, thanks for that.

  36. I ment to say escape yet should I worry…

  37. I do not have my scopes yet…

  38. mimiindublin says:

    eSCAPES…..brilliant! I love your sense of humour.

  39. Dava says:

    Love the hat look. However, I usually made scape pesto with mine. Put some scape pesto under the skin of your chicken before baking…yummo!

  40. Mary says:

    Let’s cut to the scape – I planted the garlic as you instructed last fall and I will now snip off the squiggly boos. Still waiting, however, to hear how your squash in a cage worked out – mine is starting to head in the direction of my neighbours side door and must be restrained.

    • Karen says:

      Mary – Just as my squash started to get huge last year it got powdery mildew and croaked. The cage seemed to be working out though. This year I plan to vertiacalize the squash. ~ k!

  41. Heather says:

    HaHa! As always–useful and entertaining. A scape hat will be on the to do list for this weekend. Very Eco-chic. Possibly a bit Eco-geek too, but both are in fashion. Thank you for the reminder!

  42. marion says:

    Great pictures – you are hilarious!

  43. Krikit says:

    Luv the pics! “…..scape porn….” LOL! ~;D

  44. Gayla T says:

    You are a nut case! A good nut case but pretty nutty. As a retired floral designer I have to tell you that garlic arrangements may not ever make it big but the hat???? If you attached them to aluminum foil hats I know you could sell them to people on YouTube. They would protect from harmful rays emitted from a UFO and werewolves on the ground. I just heard a few day ago that the US govt. is putting together a new defense system called ScapeWars so you are ready. Go for it! No home safe room should be w/o them.

  45. nancyeileen says:

    From the scaaaapes.
    I was horrified you might think I was suggesting your adorable ‘Cindy Who’ photo’s

    • Sherri says:

      nancyeileen—Cindy Lou Who from Whoville was my first thought when I saw the photo of Karen with her “scapeband”, too! GMTA! She’s a nut job, isn’t she? (Karen, not Cindy Lou Who. Cindy Lou appears to be a perfectly normal and very sweet little girl. Karen has never been normal.)

  46. nancyeileen says:

    Now I know where they got the idea for the alien creature in Prometheus.

  47. nancy says:

    you’re scaring me

  48. Amanda says:

    I am cracking up at your scape hat!!! I think that last “looking over your shoulder” pic should be your new avatar LOL

    Also makes me wish that I had found your blog last fall… I could be using garlic as a SCAPEgoat to investigate my garden tonight!!!

  49. Sk Farm Girl says:

    I have to say I quite like the “scape” fascinator hat. You could sell those and make a million. Just remember who suggested they become fascintor hats!! Damn, wish I would have gotten my garlic in last fall! Oh well, there is always this fall!

    • Karen says:

      O.k. I’m kind of freak out excited everyone went out and put their pictures up today. Oh. Right. Garlic. Yeah … garlic’s good. :) ~ karen/laura

      • Jen H. says:

        Don’t get too freaked out- not everyone had a chance yesterday…..I was curious as to how many responders would have avatars today. Proves that it was truly that easy

  50. Cindy Marlow says:

    Even though it’s midnight, I got excited by the thought of scape porn so I took my flashlight out to check my garlic. There are not any scapes yet but I did get hit on by an amorous firefly. Who’s the lucky girl? Me!

    • Karen says:

      I *love* getting so excited about something I run outside with a flashlight until I get hit with a bug. I do it all the time! Honestly. ~ karen

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