Garlic Scapes—There’s no Escaping How Good These Are!

Garlic scapes. Ever heard of them; ever cooked with them? I admit I didn’t know anything about them. Like garlic, these too are edible, but they have a milder garlic flavor, and can be used in many different ways. There’s no escaping how good these are!

Garlic scapes are the flower stalks that spring out of the garlic bulb. During the growth period before the garlic flowers appear, the scape begins to curl upward looping into one to three neat coils, like a pig’s tail. Spring scapes have a milder flavor without the hot garlic bite. More delicate than the root, they can be enjoyed raw in salads, dips and stir-frys.

Some folks even skewer and grill them. Pretty, don’t you think?

The scapes can be cut before harvesting the more familiar garlic bulb. You’ll usually find them at farmers’ markets, tied in bundles that look very similar to green onions. They are considered a delicacy, because you’ll only find them in the early summer, before the stocks get too wooden for harvesting. So I know I’m several months late with this suggestion, but let’s file this away in our Cook’n Ideas chapter (you’ve created one, right?) for use next year.

And here’s why you really want to be aware and on top of this plant: Garlic scapes pack a major nutritional punch for a mere 30 calories per 100 grams. They are high in fiber and contain hefty amounts of vitamin C and vitamin A, which protects your skin and lungs. But there are more reasons to enjoy these greens:

1. They increase oxygen levels in the blood: When people suffer from many diseases, including liver disease, the body releases compounds that can interfere with the amount of oxygen available in the blood. There are components of garlic, as well as its scapes, which may help to re-oxygenate the blood and maintain healthy tissues and organs.

2. They protect against osteoarthritis: Garlic scapes contain allium compounds (also found in the garlic bulb.) These compounds inhibit the enzymes in the body that are responsible for breaking down bone tissue. As we age, this becomes increasingly important for the prevention of fractures and osteoarthritis.

3. They are high in antioxidants: The sulphur compounds in garlic scapes boost glutathione, the body’s most powerful antioxidant. This protects body cells against outside causes of illness from bacteria or viruses, as well as internal causes of damage including stress.

4. They have anti-cancer properties: Diallyl sulphide is one of the many sulphur compounds found in the scapes of garlic. This compound is shown in lab studies to cause programmed cell death (apoptosis) in non-small cell lung cancer cells.

5. They protect the liver and kidney against oxidative stress: The volatile oil found in garlic and their scapes not only gives them their distinct flavor, but protects the liver and kidneys from oxidative stress, which occurs during normal metabolic functions, as well as when the body is being insulted by environmental toxins. No matter what the source of the oxidative stress is, our liver and kidneys end up bearing the brunt of the damage, so give your organs a break with some garlic scapes!

That said, there’s a long list of possibilities on how to use these. Garlic scape pesto, garlic scape hummus, stir-fried beef and garlic scapes, sautéed or grilled garlic scapes, garlic scape pasta, or creamy garlic scape soup.   For instance, here’s a delicious recipe for garlic scape soup that uses fresh spinach. I found this on the Healthy Living Market site ( See what you think:


2 tablespoons butter or extra-virgin olive oil

2 dozen garlic scapes, green shoots chopped

3 large russet potatoes, unpeeled, ½” dice

5 cups vegetable stock

2 large handfuls fresh spinach, chopped

Juice of ½ lemon

½ teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup heavy cream

Heat the butter or oil in a large soup pot over medium heat, then add the scapes and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the potatoes and stock, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through. Remove pot from heat, add the chopped spinach leaves and puree using an immersion blender or table top blender (in batches). Season with lemon juice, salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Whisk in the heavy cream. Taste and add salt, lemon juice and/or pepper as needed.

In closing, one tip to keep in mind when using garlic scapes is to be sure to remove the flower buds. You only want to use the stems.

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    Alice Osborne
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
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