Whether you grow your own or buy them fresh from the market, you may be wondering what to do with garlic scapes. This post explains how to store them, dry them, grind into garlic scape powder – as well as ideas for cooking scapes and making pesto.
But first, garlic scape basics
In early summer, stalks shoot up from the center of each hardneck garlic plant. These are called garlic scapes; they are thicker than the plant’s leaves. If they are left on the plant, each scape will form a flower and seeds. By cutting off the scapes, the plants stop growing flowers and seeds – and instead they direct their energy on growing nice fat garlic bulbs.
Only the hardneck varieties grow garlic scapes; the softneck varieties do not.
Wait until the scapes have grown enough to curl and loop around, as show in the above photo. If left too long, they may become woody – and/or begin to grow flowers and seeds.
Harvest them in late morning after the dew has evaporated.
Use a sharp knife to cut the garlic scapes as low down as you can without damaging the surrounding leaves.
Overview of what to do with garlic scapes
My husband plants 300 to 360 heads of hardneck garlic each Fall, and has been doing so for the past 15 years or so. Each spring he harvests a huge crop of scapes. He basically plunks them on our kitchen island and says something to the effect of “there you go,” and it’s up to me to figure out what to do with them. I’ve gotten better at using them up in creative ways over the years. Here are some of my favorite ways to store and use them.
As soon as the garlic scapes are picked, put them into BPA-free plastic bags or reusable silicone bags; don’t seal the bags completely. I find they will keep stored this way for at least two months in the refrigerator. The ends will begin to shrivel up over time, but you need to trim them anyway before using. If the bags become full of moisture, wipe them dry, and/or add some paper towels to the bags to prevent the scapes from molding.
Add to various cooked dishes
Garlic scapes can be added to stir fries, soups, stews, and more. Use them anywhere you would like to add a garlicky flavor.
They are especially wonderful when cooked on a gas grill. Rub or brush a bit of olive oil, onto the scapes, sprinkle with a bit of salt, and grill over medium low heat until they brown and the ends just begin to char.
Garlic scape pesto
Garlic scapes make a wonderful pesto – with or without oil – and with or without basil. Here are two scape pesto recipes that I created.
To extend their shelf life, consider dehydrating scapes. I explain “how to” in the recipe below. Please note, cut up scapes take a long time to fully dry. I include alternate instructions to speed up the drying process in the recipe notes.
Dried scapes can be tossed into soups and stews. If you want to saute them in oil or add them to stir fries, rehydrate them first in a bit of warm water. Add the garlic infused soaking water to your dish as well.
Grind into garlic scape powder
Dehydrated scapes can easily be ground into powder as explained below. Use garlic scape powder anywhere you’d use garlic powder.
Drying Garlic Scapes and Making Garlic Scape Powder
- bullet blender (or other blender)
- garlic scapes
How to dehydrate scapes
- Wash the garlic scapes and let them air dry.
- Trim away the tip from each scape just below the flower bud (see photo). Discard the tips or save them for making vegetable broth.
- Cut the scapes into 1/2" to 1" pieces. Arrange them single layer on dehydrator trays.
- Dehydrate at 135º until dry and brittle; this will take about 24 hours.Yes, they take a long time to fully dehydrate! To speed up the process, see the alternate step explained below.
- Let the dried scapes cool down before placing them into a glass jars(s). Tighten the lid(s) and store in a cool, dry, dark location for best results.
How to make scape powder
- To make garlic scape powder, grind about a cup of dried scapes in a bullet blender, or other blender. A coffee grinder used for this purpose would also work.1 cup of dried scapes will yield about 3/4 cup of powder.
- Store the powder in a small glass jar with a tight fitting lid. As an optional step, add a few small dried beans to the jar to help absorb any remaining moisture; this will also help to prevent clumping.
- Moisture content of the scapes
- Temperature of the dehydrator
- Whether or not the dehydrator has a circulating fan to evenly distribute the heat
- How often the dehydrator is opened and if it opens from the front or top
- Humidity in the room
If you like “What to do with garlic scapes” you may also enjoy another of my posts “Planting Garlic in the Fall.”
FedoraJuly 7, 2022 at 3:46 pm
Thanks so much for these hard-earned tips!
Judy DeLorenzoJuly 8, 2022 at 11:47 pm
You’re so very welcome!
FrankMarch 28, 2023 at 8:36 pm
I planted my first ever garlic crop last September. Now it’s March in the burbs of Chicago and I’ve got dozens of little scapes!!
And now I know what to do with them later on.
thanks so much,
Judy DeLorenzoMarch 28, 2023 at 10:04 pm
Oh I’m so glad you’re growing garlic! It’s an easy and wonderful crop to grow 🙂 What you are seeing right now are the garlic plants starting to pop. The scapes don’t come until later on. The scapes grow in CT in early June, so probably around that time for you too.
You can see photos of early garlic plants in another of my posts called Planting Garlic in the Fall.
Did you plant hardneck or softneck? Only the hardneck will grow the scapes.
Our garlic is sprouting now too – so exciting!
SherrieMay 24, 2023 at 10:38 am
My husband grows quite a bit of garlic. I never thought of dehydrating the scapes. Thanks for posting that tip. Do you think I could add the scapes to my dehydrated basil, oregano etc for an Italian seasoning? Thanks!
Judy DeLorenzoMay 25, 2023 at 11:50 am
Hi Sherrie. You’re welcome! I didn’t realize you can dry and powder scapes until recent years myself. It’s a great way to put them up. As far as mixing them with herbs, I don’t think it will work because the scape powder tends to clump. That’s why I suggest adding a few small dried beans to the jar with the powder. You can try it though and let me know how it goes 🙂