Growing Hardnecked Garlic

Garlic scapes are the shoots that the garlic sends up to flower. They are really pretty or at least I think so! They are a curly shoot with a white-green “flower bud” close to the end. My mom gave me a garlic plant a couple of years ago. Somehow I thought it was some sort of Asian onion that a neighbor had given her. I grew the plant that first year and collected all of the scapes to dry. They dry beautifully and would look nice in a flower arrangement except for the garlic smell! Not good! The next year, well I enjoyed them in the garden and didn’t do anything with the scapes. So this year? Well, the past explains why about half of my vegetable garden this spring was sprouting new garlic plants. All of those flowers did their job well and took over that end of the garden. I pulled up a lot of it to make space for eggplant, zucchini and peppers. I almost took out the rest of them to make more space and now I am so glad that I did not!

Okay, laugh with me. I tried to google those Asian Onions to find out exactly what they were. I hate growing plants when I do not know anything about them. Okay, I think that is the scientist in me. I like to know these things. And of course, they aren’t onions at all but garlic. I called my mom to tell her that I figured out what the plant is, but she already knew, sigh. I learned that the plants must be a hardnecked garlic, because softnecked garlic rarely send up scapes. There are many varieties of garlic, so I do not know exactly which kind I have. But I think I might be able to narrow it down in about six weeks when I harvest the garlic! That will be exciting!!

Harvesting of the scapes could have been going on for the last few weeks, but my scapes were getting older. It is still early June which is harvest time. You can determine the older versus younger scapes by looking at the stems. The stems become straighter, losing some of that cute curl until finally they are perfectly straight. It is too late to harvest when they become straight. The stems are quite hard and tough. The flowers are also getting larger and start to flower.

As you can see, I let some of these stay on the plant too long and they really are not edible. I will go ahead and cut most of these off leaving only a couple to flower. Allowing these to flower will spread seeds for next year’s crop. Cutting off the rest of the flowers will help to increase the size of the garlic at harvest time!

Luckily, I snipped quite a few scapes at an early enough stage a week or so ago! I thought that I would leave some of the younger ones for later harvesting, because I still had not decided what I was going to do with them. However, I never got a chance to gather more scapes due to life and later in the season they also progress to flowering much faster.

Yes, I do want to grow garlic again next year, at least a few plants. I could change my mind, as we still need to see how the garlic crop turns out. The scapes are just a bonus crop. A crop that I have to figure out some exciting use. I rinsed them well and put them in a jar with cold water. This will keep them fresh for a couple of days, just like cut flowers change the water daily. They look beautiful set on my kitchen counter.

They also can be stored in a zip lock bag in the refrigerator. The closed bag is too keep your refrigerator from smelling like garlic, as well as, to keep them from drying out. They should keep this way for 2-3 weeks extending the season. And of course, they can be frozen. Cut them into small ¼ inch pieces and blanch them for 30 seconds before plunging into ice water. Lay them on paper towels to dry, and then spread out on a cookie sheet to freeze. Once frozen, store them in freezer bags or containers. They can then be stored for about one year. You can also pickle or dehydrate your crop. Lots of options!

I found some recipes that sounded good too. Garlic scapes have a mild garlic flavor and they are good in many recipes, such as, omelets, pesto, spaghetti, soups, stir-fries, raw in salads and saute for any dish. They can also be used as a vegetable side dish, if you like a more pungent garlic flavor. They can be eaten raw, steamed or roasted.

Making pesto and a recipe for garlic scape salt intrigued me. Oh and pickling! That sounds fun. I started with the salt recipe. I found it on a site called Gutsy By Nature, written by Jaime Hartman. It is a basic herb salt recipe and simple to do.

  • 1/2 cup sea salt
  • 12 fresh garlic scapes

Do I have all the ingredients for this recipe? Quite the list? Okay, everyone has salt. You don’t necessarily have to use sea salt either. Kosher salt would be nice too.

Looking through my spice cabinet, I found a Cerulean Seas fine sea salt. Yes, set to go! What a great simple recipe to start out using the scapes. I do not overly salt food, so it seems like a fine salt would be less salty than a coarse salt?

Add the salt to your food processor and the tender portion of your scapes and flower buds cut into small enough pieces to fit into the work bowl. Pulse until the scapes are finely chopped and blended with your salt into a paste.

Spread this out on parchment paper on a baking sheet. The parchment makes it easier to move the salt later. Bake at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour or until completely dry. I stirred and broke up the paste two or three times to help in the drying process. It helped to keep the chunks smaller as well. The large chunks could get very hard and I did not want that. Once it cooled a bit, I used the parchment paper to transfer the salt to a clean food processor and gave it a whirl. This broke down the salt into smaller granules though still pretty large. See picture to the right. Perhaps, coarse salt would actually be a smaller grain at this point? I might test that out next time. Store the finished garlic salt in an airtight jar. It smells great and I cannot wait to use it!

Finished Garlic Scape Sea Salt

Oooh, I just read about dehydrating the scapes and then blending into a fine dust. This would then be added to your salt. It would definitely be a salt blend with a finer grain. I might try this next time and add other herbs too. I need to make more! Going to buy more sea salt!

Bonus, if garlic usually bothers you, these tender scapes should give you the flavor without the side effects.

Tomorrow Pesto!

So what have you made lately? Are you going to plant some garlic next year? You should at least buy some at your local farmer’s market next June and see how wonderful garlic scapes can be!

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