What to do with garlic scapes — plus, the best recipes that use this curly plant

Make sure that you save some for sautéeing, deep-frying, topping pizzas and more

Published June 19, 2021 1:30PM (EDT)

 (Alexandra Stafford / Food52)
(Alexandra Stafford / Food52)

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There's nothing better than returning from the farmers market to transform a bunch of garlic scapes into tempura-battered appetizer — complete with a sidecar of garlic aioli. This time of year, bags filled with the serpentine stems can be found everywhere at farmers' markets, and unlike many of the fleeting jewels of summer, garlic scapes are a bargain. 

Garlic scapes grow from hardneck garlic bulbs, and farmers trim them because they draw energy away from the forming bulbs. They taste sweet, like a chive or scallion, with a more mild — but familiar — garlicky zing. Finely sliced, scapes can be used just the same as garlic cloves, such as sautéed with vegetables, puréed into pesto and hummus, or roasted with meats and vegetables.

They also can be lightly battered and fried, which tempers their pungency, giving them almost a green bean quality, both in taste and texture. When fried, moreover, scapes become more than just a flavor enhancement — they can be the main show, too. A one-pound bag of scapes, trimmed into six-inch lengths and fried in small batches, will definitely feed a crowd.

How to store garlic scapes

Scapes couldn't be more low-maintenance. They rarely have a speck of dirt on them, and they will keep for weeks (even months!) tucked in a bag in your vegetable drawer. Before using them, cut off the stringy, fibrous tip from the flower end, and trim off the very bottom of the stem.

How to use garlic scapes

Use scapes just as you would garlic, finely chopped (though not necessarily minced as you typically would with garlic) and sautéed in butter or olive oil. Make a summary sauté with scapes, zucchini, onions, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes—any of your favorite summer vegetables. Come Friday night, why not top a pizza with sautéed scapes and the garlicky olive oil that you sautéed them in?

You can also treat garlic scapes as you would chives or scallions — finely chop them and use as a garnish, or fold them into the batter for savory biscuits, muffins, or scones, or even whisk them into an egg scramble. 

Purée the scapes raw and add to hummus, pesto, aioli, and mayonnaise. When scapes are steamed until tender, their resemblance to green beans is striking. Season with salt, pepper, and olive oil or butter.

Because garlic scapes have a relatively short season, one of the best ways to preserve their beauty is by trimming them and pickling them with spices (mustard seeds, peppercorns, fennel seed, cumin) and a vinegar-salt-sugar mix. Ahead, we're sharing even more ideas for cooking with garlic scapes using five of our favorite recipes.

Our favorite garlic scape recipes

Arugula and Garlic Scape Pesto

Upgrade a basic basil pesto with ½ cup of chopped garlic scapes and peppery arugula in place of the ever-popular herb. Mix the ingredients in a food processor along with the zest and juice of one lemon, Pecorino cheese, roasted almonds, and lots of good-quality extra-virgin olive oil. From here, stir it into warm pasta, use it as a dip for crudités, drizzle it over pizza, or fold it into scrambled eggs.

Tempura Garlic Scapes with Garlic Scape Aioli

Looking for a way to enjoy garlic scapes in all their glory as is? Dip them in a rich and silky tempura batter, which forms the airest, crispiest crust when deep-fried. While they're incredible on their own, turn the volume up on the flavor one more notch with a creamy garlic scape aioli for dipping.

Garlic Scape Pesto

Looking for an even easier pesto? This four-ingredient sauce is made with the curly scapes, plus Parmesan, pine nuts, and olive oil. It's simple as can be, but the flavor is far more intense than you'd expect (in the best way possible).

Clams Steamed with Garlic Scapes

Clams are mild-mannered, but their sea-fresh flavor is complemented with sautéed garlic scapes and a white-wine butter sauce. Serve with lots of crusty bread for sopping up every last bit of that garlicky broth.

Grilled Sausage with Potatoes and Garlic Scapes

All three ingredients here — the Italian pork sausages, fingerling potatoes, and olive oil-coated garlic scapes — are grilled until charred for one fabulously flavorful dinner that serves four. The scapes are super quick-cooking (we're talking one minute per side), so don't let them out of your sight. They quickly turn from brown and caramelized to burnt and inedible. This prized, piquant plant has a very short season, so it would be a travesty to accidentally burn them and have them go to waste. 

By Alexandra Stafford

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