There’s more to garlic bulb than flavoring

These are garlic scapes, the long stalks on garlic plants. To encourage the plant to put its energy into making the garlic bulb bigger, you’ll need to trim the scapes.



I know it’s starting to really feel like summer when my garlic needs a haircut. The long stalks start making loop-de-loops that the sparrows like to perch on, and when the wind really gets going, it’s like a little birdie roller coaster in the garlic patch.

I hate to take their fun ride away, but when I see two loops, it’s time to cut off the tops, which are called “scapes.”

The purpose of cutting off the scape is to force the garlic plant to put its energy into growing a large bulb for harvest in the fall. If you don’t cut off the scapes, the plant will put energy into growing a seed head. There will still be bulbs underground, they just won’t be as large.

Don’t throw scapes away. The squiggly harvest is full of flavor. You can grill them, pickle them, and throw them in stir-fry.

Any dish in which you might like a mild garlic flavor, try it out. How about whizzing them up in some homemade hummus instead of roasted garlic? Or using them as a base for a delicious soup of your choice (one you want to taste like garlic, of course).

My favorite ways to use them are in garlic scape pesto and garlic scape refrigerator pickles.

If you have garlic you’re trimming in the garden or you happen to get a bunch of scapes from your CSA (community supported agriculture) and aren’t sure what to do with them, give this a try.


Makes 1 pint jar, depending on how long your scapes are. These are not processed, but they do need to sit in your fridge for a few weeks to acquire that pickled taste.


12–16 garlic scapes

1 cup water

1 cup white distilled vinegar

5 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

Dried chiles (optional)


Make your pickling brine by pouring the water, vinegar and salt in a small saucepan. Heat brine on medium until simmering, while you prepare the scapes.

Wash and trim garlic scapes to a length that will fit in the pint jar. You will probably have to cut some of them in half, and depending on how particular you are about how they fit in the jar.

Put peppercorns, bay leaf and chiles in the bottom of the jar (more chiles = spicier pickles). Pack the garlic scapes in the jar. I like to pack them vertically so I can reach in and slide one out without disturbing all of them. Then, pour the simmering brine over everything into the pint jar.

You probably want to use a canning funnel to do this. Make sure all the scapes get covered — you might have a small amount of leftover brine or you might have to take out some of the scapes to make it all fit appropriately. Cap your jar with a canning lid, let it cool on the counter for a bit, and refrigerate it for four to six weeks. They will keep for months, but I doubt they’ll last that long.

Erin McIntyre is a writer, gardener and Grand Valley native in the midst of starting her own gourmet pickle company, which you can check out at


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