Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Upper South
June, 2011
Regional Report

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Garlic scapes are not only intriguing in their shape but a great addition to meals.

The Season of the Scape

Most gardeners have a seriously frugal streak, and somewhere along the way enterprising gardeners began disregarding the recommendation to remove and discard the flower stalk on their hardneck garlic plants. (The less hardy softneck varieties do not produce flowers.)

Yes, you should still remove the flower stalk in order for the garlic plant to concentrate its energy on bulb development, but instead of going to the compost pile, take it to the kitchen for an intriguing addition to your summer meals.

Harvesting Garlic Scapes
On garlic that was planted last fall, the scapes begin to form in May, with the looping neck slowly uncurling. The ideal harvest time is when there are one or two loops left and with the bud still pointy-tipped. Cut them off above the topmost leaf. Once harvested, remove any of the lower stem that is tough, just as you would with asparagus. In addition to garlic scapes, be sure to also try those from elephant garlic and shallots.

Cooking with Garlic Scapes
The simplest way to prepare garlic scapes is to toss them with a bit of olive oil and roast at 350 degrees F for about 15 to 20 minutes. If you want to include them with other roasted vegetables, just add during the last 20 minutes of cooking. Garlic scapes are also delicious lightly sauteed in olive oil. Or chop them and add to salads, or use in cooking as a substitute for green onions.

Using the scapes to make garlic scape pesto, with its pungent yet sweet flavor, has become popular. In a food processor, combine 4 ounces of garlic scapes with 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice, and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Besides stirring into pasta, consider adding it to potato salad or to flavor a mayonnaise. Fortunately, since garlic scape season is quite short, garlic scape pesto freezes well.

Plan for Garlic Next Year
In case you aren't growing garlic in your garden this year, don't despair. Most farmer's markets will have someone selling them, as well as green garlic (immature garlic bulbs). To grow your own garlic and, hence, garlic scapes, order garlic bulbs this summer for planting in the fall. As mentioned earlier, the hardneck type of garlic is hardier, but the bulbs do produce fewer cloves than the softneck type, which is the one most often seen in groceries. Among the most reliable hardneck varieties are German Extra-Hardy, Music, German Red, German White, Spanish Roja, and Chesnok Red.

Garlic is usually planted in September or October, although I've planted up until Thanksgiving. You'll want a standard garden location with humus-rich, well-drained soil in full sun. Separate the bulbs into individual cloves, and plant them about 2 inches deep and 4 to 6 inches apart. I usually add a 1- to 2-inch layer of organic mulch. Then just sit back, enjoy the winter, and be ready to harvest scapes in June and the garlic bulbs in late July or August.

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