Why is my Garlic Growing Bulbs on Top? Guide to Garlic Scapes

Garlic, known for its underground bulbs, sometimes surprises gardeners by producing additional bulbs above ground. These bulb-like structures, often referred to as “garlic scapes,” serve a specific purpose in the garlic plant’s lifecycle. Let’s explore why garlic produces scapes and what you can do about them.

Understanding Garlic Scapes

1. Reproductive Mechanism: Garlic scapes are a part of the garlic plant’s reproductive process. They are the plant’s way of producing seeds for propagation. The scape emerges from the central stem of the garlic plant and extends upward, forming a curly, tendril-like structure.

2. Timing: Garlic scapes typically appear in late spring or early summer, depending on the variety and local climate. They emerge after the garlic plant has undergone a significant portion of its growth cycle.

3. Appearance: Garlic scapes can be easily identified by their long, thin stems, often topped with a bulbous structure. This bulb-like end contains small, undeveloped garlic cloves.


Why Garlic Forms Scapes

Garlic plants produce scapes as part of their natural growth process, and there are several reasons for this:

1. Reproduction: As mentioned, scapes are the garlic plant’s way of producing seeds for propagation. If left to grow, the bulbous end of the scape will eventually form seeds.

2. Diverting Energy: By removing scapes, the plant redirects energy from seed production towards bulb growth. This can result in larger, more robust garlic bulbs, which is typically the desired outcome for culinary purposes.

3. Culinary Use: While garlic scapes might not develop into fully mature garlic bulbs, they are edible and have a milder garlic flavour. Many gardeners and chefs appreciate them for their culinary versatility.

What to Do About Garlic Scapes

  1. Harvest or Trim: You can choose to harvest garlic scapes once they’ve emerged or trim them. Harvesting them can prevent the plant from directing too much energy towards seed production. Trimming allows you to enjoy the scapes without removing them entirely.
  2. Culinary Delights: Garlic scapes are a culinary delight. They can be used in various dishes, such as stir-fries, salads, pesto, or simply sautéed in butter or olive oil. Their milder flavour makes them a versatile ingredient.
  3. Propagation: If you’re interested in growing garlic from seeds, you can allow some of the scapes to mature and develop seeds fully. These seeds can be used for planting in subsequent seasons.

Garlic Scapes FAQs

Are garlic scapes the same as garlic?
No, garlic scapes are not the same as garlic. Garlic scapes are the long, curly, green stems that grow from the tops of garlic plants. They are essentially the flowering stalks of the garlic plant. On the other hand, the garlic bulb is the underground part of the plant harvested for its cloves.

How do you prepare garlic scapes to eat?
Garlic scapes are edible and have a mild garlic flavour. To prepare them, first trim off the tough, woody ends, usually about 1-2 inches from the bulbous tip. You can then chop or slice the remaining tender portion of the scape, similar to preparing green onions or chives. Garlic scapes are versatile and can be used in various dishes, such as stir-fries, salads, pesto, or as a garnish.

How much of the garlic scape do you cut off?
You should cut off the tough, woody part of the garlic scape, typically about 1-2 inches from the bulbous tip. The upper, curly portion of the scape is the most tender and flavorful part that is suitable for consumption.

Which end of garlic scapes do you eat?
You eat the tender, curly end of the garlic scape, typically the stem’s upper portion. The lower part, closer to the bulbous tip, is usually tough and woody and is trimmed off before cooking or eating.

Do garlic scapes taste like garlic?
Yes, garlic scapes have a mild and fresh garlic flavour. While the taste is garlicky, it is not as intense as that of garlic cloves, making scapes a versatile ingredient for those who enjoy a milder garlic taste.

Should I keep garlic scapes in the fridge?
Yes, it’s advisable to store garlic scapes in the refrigerator. Place them in a plastic bag or airtight container to keep them fresh. They can be stored in the fridge for up to a few weeks.

Can I freeze garlic scapes?
Yes, you can freeze garlic scapes for longer storage. Chop or slice them, blanch in boiling water for about 1-2 minutes, then immediately transfer to an ice bath to stop cooking. Drain, pat dry, and store in an airtight container or freezer bag. Frozen garlic scapes can be used in cooking without the need to thaw.

How do you clean and prepare garlic scapes?
To clean garlic scapes, simply rinse them under cool water to remove any dirt or debris. Trim off the tough ends, as mentioned earlier, and then proceed to chop, slice, or use them as desired in your recipes.

How many garlic scapes equal a clove?
The number of garlic scapes needed to equal the flavour intensity of a garlic clove can vary depending on individual taste preferences and the specific recipe. As a general guideline, one garlic scape is roughly equivalent to the flavour of 1/2 to 2/3 of a garlic clove. Adjust the amount of scapes to your liking in your recipes.

Do you need to dry garlic scapes?
Drying garlic scapes is not a common practice. They are best enjoyed fresh or frozen for later use, as drying can alter their texture and flavour.