Garlic Escapades

Whether blended in a soup, pickled in a mason jar or baked in an omelet, eating is the best way to utilize scapes, a farm and garden byproduct of garlic. Seed Savers Exchange is conducting its first ever evaluation of over 300 garlic varieties in its production garden this year, which means harvesting a lot of scapes for scanning, as well as to ensure the garlic bulbs are adequately plump and ready for replanting in October.

Looking out across the half-acre field waving with crowns of silvery green, these several hundred varieties may appear identical to the untrained eye, but in fact differ considerably in size and shape. Many are uniform in their likeness (streaking brown leaves as some had matured early), still others display anthropomorphic qualities unique to their row: one variety like a sumo wrestler, squat and thick, while another resembles the stern form of a lawman. Taken together, the melded identities of Allium sativum are a chorus of opportunity for SSE to learn more about this species (and its flowering appendage) in the Allium genus.

Our trial field includes both hard and softneck garlics. For those of us new to garlic varieties, softneck garlic doesn’t produce scapes, and generally isn’t as hardy (hence the cognate of its opposite, the “hardneck”), but, it does store better and mature quicker. The bulb size of many hardneck varieties is improved by removing the scape—its flowering stalk which eventually produces bulbils and flowers—hence getting “plump and ready for October.” Some varieties, however, don’t mind if you leave their scapes on until harvest time, such as those in the Turban group. It just goes to show – the more we learn about each variety’s characteristics, from planting to harvest, the more we’ll understand their preferences, personalities, and how best to make use of them.

Here’s a quick primer on Preservation’s Field & Lab Plant Evaluation

Any characteristic that has a genetic basis is recorded in evaluations at SSE, which, specific to garlic, includes observing and measuring:

1. leaf color
2. leaf posture
3. stalk height (or pseudostem)
4. scape shape (if applicable)

Everything is recorded into Preservation’s database—the hardneck scapes are harvested and scanned into a digital format—and staff can glory in the perk of free scapes for eating!

Garlic taste tests to follow… meanwhile, check out some of these intriguing recipes, and keep us posted on your favorite uses for scapes!


Garlic Visit the online store to purchase our certified organic seed garlic today. Over 10 varieties to choose from– They will sell out!


Check out this slide show and cheat sheet for planting your garlic.

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  1. David Winship Taylor says:

    We promote the use of scapes to our supporters of Sirocco Ridge Farm by suggesting they treat them like asparagus. This overlaps nicely with your suggestions, but also adds steaming, sauteing and grilling them, all delicious options. We have been growing 5 SS hardneck varieties since 2009 and these do well in southern Indiana.

  2. I picked up some scapes at the local farmer’s market this year for the first time. I grilled some with olive oil, lemon juice, s&p (delicious!) and made refrigerator pickles with the rest (super delicious!)

  3. M.J. Wilken says:

    For years I’ve been taking redundant hardneck garlic from my summer harvest and digging it in around the periphery of my large vegetable garden here in Connecticut. I now have a permanent thick border of garlic just for scapes, which have become a top favorite vegetable at my house. I find one can do pretty much anything with them one could do with asparagus or green beans, but I love them best simply steamed and drizzled with butter and lemon juice. How I wish they lasted longer here than a mere 2-3 weeks in June!

  4. I love making garlic scape pesto – I’d love to find varieties that produce especially large scapes! Can’t wait to hear more from you on this!

    • Marisa, that’s awesome! I just made garlic scape pesto the other night, using pre-soaked walnuts instead of pine nuts… adds a needed kick to steamed greens. Varieties that produce larger-than-normal scapes would be perfect for all of us scape aficionados, eh? I’ll definitely be sure to check in once Trials have concluded. Cheers !

  5. Any news on the phytoplasma situation in the SSE garlic crop?

    • Hi Joanna,

      Tim, our Seed Bank Manager and Head of Preservation, says: “We have culled the garlic extensively and plan to list again this year, while simultaneously educating members about the control and detection of phytoplasma.”

      For those new to phytoplasma (aka Aster Yellows), it’s a bacterium that can infect garlic and is transmitted by the Aster Leafhopper. More information can be found here:

  6. Thanks for linking to our scape-infused vinegar recipe! We’ve been SSE members for a couple years now and are using many of your varieties in our newly-build home garden.

    We’ve also got our start saving our own seed from SSE varieties – Star of David okra and Cracoviensis lettuce.

    • Your scape-infused vinegar recipe is incredible, thank you for sharing! Happy to hear you’re saving seed, especially from Star of David okra; such a beautiful variety (okra radiates something magic, especially when it goes to seed – keeping those pods in a vase year-round is the best Ruth Stout version of a party trick if I ever saw one). Keep up the great work; I look forward to seed swapping soon via the Yearbook !

  7. Salvatore D'Urso says:

    I have been growing garlic for many years from my own seed.
    I have always grown softneck garlic. This year for some reason many plants have grown what seem to be scapes from hardneck garlic however the bulbils have broken though a few inches up the stem and not at the top of the plant. You can actually feel the difference in the stem below and above the place where the bulbils have broken through the stem.

    Comments/insights would be welcome