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.
STUFF YOU WANT TO KNOW
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 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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