Garlic scapes (seedheads) are removed now. How to harvest and store garlic

Garlic scapes (seedheads) are removed now. How to harvest and store garlic

A little less than half my garden is filled with garlic, there are even containers filled with the plants. I would guess about two or three hundred head. I went crazy during the fall planting, hoping to grow enough homegrown garlic to get me through the winter. It never works out that way though, when two entire bulbs are used for a pasta recipe!

Garlic scapes should be removed from the plant and enjoyed in the kitchen. Photos by Doug Oster

Some types of garlic (hardneck) send up a seed head, called a scape. It needs to be removed so that the plant concentrates its energy on making nice bulbs, not seeds.

The scapes are a delicacy in the kitchen and one of the last seasonal crops left on the market. They can only be found in early summer during the harvest. I use them as the base for pesto and also roast them after coating them with good olive oil and then adding a pinch of sea salt.

When the scapes are left in the garden, there’s enough energy left in the stem to form the seed head. The little seeds are referred to as bulbils, a small clone of the bulb below. Since each bulbil — the size of a corn kernel — has its own papery sheath, they are a pain to use in the kitchen. They are much better suited for snacking in the garden. If the bulbil is planted, it should eventually make a nice sized bulb after about five years. (Not worth the time or effort in my mind, I’ve never actually seen it done either.)

There are many types of garlic, each one offers something different when it comes to taste and heat level.

The early harvest of the young plants provides a smaller bulb without the fully formed papery covering. These usually are not as potent as the mature bulb and are filled with wonderful garlic oil.

When the foliage of the plant turns about 50 percent brown, the bulbs below are ready to pull. I usually take one or two from different beds to be sure they are ready. I’ll look for a tightly formed covering of the papery sheath. Better to harvest early than wait too long, especially when planning to store the garlic. Delaying the harvest causes the cloves to split and while still tasty, they will not last as long.

How to dry garlic

The bulbs should be hung in a warm, dry place to cure for three weeks. Leaving the stalks on is another trick to make them last.

Store them in an onion bag or open basket. Never seal them in plastic as they will sprout and spoil soon.

I love turning the scapes into pesto. This video shows how easy it is to make this wonderful, seasonal treat.

They can be used many ways in the kitchen and on the grill.

Garlic is planted in October and we’re getting ready to harvest in July. Make plans now to order some seed garlic for your fall planting.

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