Harvesting Garlic Scapes

This post may contain affiliate links, view our disclosure policy for details.

Harvesting garlic scapes is an important task that every garlic grower should know how to do. Learn how to harvest garlic scapes to encourage your garlic plants to devote their energy to developing a large and healthy garlic bulb.

I love growing garlic! I have been growing it for years (learn how to grow garlic here) and in fact, I have been self-sufficient when it comes to garlic for years. I simply plant more than I need and keep some of my bulbs as planting stock for the next year.

But I always wanted to grow garlic on a larger scale. To sell commercially. This past year, we finally did it! We planted 1500 garlic plants and they are all looking great so far.

Harvesting Garlic Scapes…

a garlic scape growing

In the past, I always planted soft-neck garlic. However, since we were planting so many garlic plants, and since here in central NC we can grow all the different varieties of garlic, I decided that it would be fun to experiment with hard-neck garlic varieties. And the best thing about growing hard-neck garlic varieties is that you also get to harvest a garlic scape!

garlic scape developing flowers and seeds

What are Garlic Scapes…

Garlic scapes are the developing flower bud of the garlic plant. Think about them as somewhere between asparagus, scallions, or chives. They are green and thin, and have a gentle garlic flavor to them. They start growing out of the garlic plant straight, then curl, and then, if left on the plant, they straighten again and become rather woody.

The stem of the scape is thin but at the tip, you’ll find a bulb. That bulb is actually a bud and if the scape is left on the plant this bud will transform into a flower. Garlic scapes, at their young stage, are edible.

Which Varieties of Garlic Produce a Scape…

Garlic varieties are divided into two groups: hard-neck varieties and soft-neck varieties.

  • Hard-neck garlic produces fewer garlic cloves but it produces a stalk, or in other words, the scape. These varieties are suitable for growing in colder climates, up to growing zone 6 or 7.
  • Soft-neck garlic is most likely the garlic that you find at the grocery store. It most likely was grown in California or Mexico. Soft-neck varieties are suitable for growing in warmer climates, zones 7 or higher. They produce more garlic cloves per head but they do not produce a garlic scape.
garlic scapes growing on garlic plants

When does a Garlic Scape Starts Growing…

If you planted a hard-neck garlic variety, you’ll notice the garlic scape starts growing about three weeks to a month before harvest time. It will start growing straight up from the center of the plant, then it will curl, and then, if left on the plant, it will straighten again and will start to get woody and develop the flower.

Why Should I Remove the Garlic Scape?

Producing a flower requires a lot of energy from the plant. Since we want the plant to keep focusing its energy on producing large and quality garlic cloves, we remove the flower stalk. Once the scape is gone, the garlic plant can devote its energy to producing a healthy garlic bulb.

Do I Have to Remove the Garlic Scape?

This is a controversial subject… Most growers remove the scape because they believe that it will help the plant focus its energy on growing a larger, healthier garlic bulb. Plus, the scape is another valuable harvest from the plant. If you grow hard-neck garlic varieties you get two products: the scapes and the bulbs.

However, Ron L. Engeland, a garlic expert, describes in his book Growing Great Garlic, the experiments he’s done with leaving the garlic scapes on the garlic plant (page 135). Ron had a storage problem… His garlic were turning soft too quickly and not storing well. When he left the scape on the plant until it hardened (instead of removing it right after it curled) his discovery was that after harvest, his garlic bulbs stored very well and stayed hard much longer. He also noted that he didn’t notice a huge change in bulb size.

Ultimately he writes…

“Definite conclusion: there is none. Each grower will have to experiment and derive his or her own conclusion. I can speculate, however, that many of the growers who complain about late flower stalk removal causing small bulbs are at much higher elevations or more northern latitudes than we are. Many also grow garlic in generally poorer soils with less organic matter”

So it’s up to you to decide… You don’t have to remove the stalk right after it curls, however, take into consideration that you might get a smaller garlic bulb if your soil is poor and you are giving up the crop of a scape. On the flip side, your garlic might store better…

a garlic scape ready to be removed

When to Harvest Garlic Scapes…

Once you notice the garlic scape starting to grow, it’s a good idea to check your garlic every day. Let the scape curl and once it’s curled harvest it.

garlic scapes harvested and ready to eat

How to Harvest Garlic Scapes…

Harvesting garlic scapes is pretty easy. If you are using your hands only, make sure to hold the garlic plant and simply snap the scape at its base. Holding the plant will ensure that you don’t pull the whole plant by accident.

Another way to do it, and much easier in my opinion, especially if you have many plants, is with sheers. I think that using thin clippers like tomato prunning sheers would probably work best. All you have to do is clip the scape off at its base, above the last garlic leaf.

How to Store Garlic Scapes…

  • In the fridge – in a zip-lock bag. They should last for a few weeks.
  • In the freezer – cut the scapes into one-inch pieces. Vacuum seal and store in the freezer. Add to soups, casseroles, stir fry, and so on (there is no need to thaw)…
  • Freeze as pesto
  • Dehydrate – in the dehydrator, at 135 degrees F for about 12 hours.
  • Pickle – pickling allows you to can your scapes. Pickled garlic scapes can last on the shelf at room temperature for many months.

How to Use Garlic Scapes…

  • Roasted or sauteed – in olive oil with salt and black pepper.
  • Add to stir fry, casseroles, or soups – simply throw them in to add a little bit of garlic flavor.
  • Garlic scape pesto – turn your garlic scapes into pesto.
  • Pickled garlic scapes – if you want to be able to keep your scapes at room temperature for the long term, can them pickled.
  • Fermented garlic scapes – I lacto ferment everything!
  • Grilled – throw them on the grill for a few minutes, remove, and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.
  • Freeze Garlic Scapes – garlic scapes are very easy to freeze!

Frequently Asked Questions…

Can I still eat woody scapes?

The texture is not great so I wouldn’t recommend it. What you can do is keep them to add to chicken, turkey, or beef stock or broth. Or to add to soups and stews for some added garlic flavor.

Do garlic scapes have the same health benefits as garlic cloves?

Not exactly. They are much milder than the actual garlic cloves.

Can I replant garlic scapes and grow garlic?

I don’t believe so. At least I have never heard of anyone who was successful in doing this.

Can I let the scapes grow and collect the seed to plant?

Yes, you can, however, it’s a long process that is probably not worth the effort. 
If you want to try this, let the scape produce a flower. Let the flower dry on the plant and then harvest it. Loosen the little bulbils. Plant in the fall. In the following summer, you should be able to harvest a one-clove garlic “bulb” from each plant. You’ll then replant that clove in the fall to produce a whole head of garlic the following year (in the summer). 
It’s a long process that most people don’t bother with. 
If you want to be self-sufficient when it comes to garlic, just plant more cloves than you need and keep some of your garlic bulbs as planting stock to plant in the fall. 

All right, I hope that by now you have a better understanding of how to harvest, preserve, and use garlic scapes. If you are in a growing zone that allows you to grow hard-neck garlic varieties I hope that you go for it! Garlic is pretty easy to grow, a super important ingredient to have in any kitchen and the scapes are like the bonus sprinkles on the top!

More Gardening Tutorials…

Please share this content if you like it. Thank You!

Similar Posts


  1. I make a garlic scape salt with my garlic scapes

    1. I didn’t try this yet but I dehydrated some of mine and was thinking about trying to make salt.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *