When to Harvest Garlic Scapes (& How to Do It!)

Are you wondering when to harvest garlic scapes and the best way to do it? You’re not alone! There’s an art to picking them at the right time so that they are tender and delicious for eating without negatively impacting garlic bulb development. 

Hold onto your gardening gloves because this is a fun topic! We’ll cover interesting insights, practical tips, and mouthwatering recipes that will make you a garlic scape harvesting pro in no time. 

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just beginning your green-thumb journey, this post is sure to inspire and empower you to make the most of your garlic scape harvest. Let’s do this!

A close up photo of garlic scapes growing out of a garlic plant ready to be harvested.

*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links to products (including Amazon). I’ll earn a small commission if you make a purchase through my link, at no additional cost to you! Regardless, I only link to products that I personally use on our homestead or believe in.

What Are Garlic Scapes?

Garlic scapes are the soft stalks that emerge from the top of the garlic plant about a month before the garlic bulb is ready to harvest. As the scape grows, it will curl into a circle with a pointed seedpod at the end. 

If the scapes are left on to mature, the resulting garlic bulb will be 20-30% smaller. By harvesting the garlic scapes at the correct time, the plant will divert its energy back into producing delicious, large bulbs (which is what we want!).

One thing to keep in mind is that garlic scapes only form on hardneck varieties of garlic. These are hardier and what I personally grow to survive our cold Minnesota winters. You’ll mostly find softneck varieties at the grocery store; these don’t provide scapes. 

The good news is that harvesting garlic scapes is more than a routine garden chore… they are DELICIOUS to eat, too! We look forward to eating them every year. Keep reading to learn the best way to eat them!

When to Harvest Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes pop up quickly, so keep an eye out for them! It’s important to harvest them at the right time.

  • Harvest too early: You’ll have a small garlic scape harvest. They are sooo delicious – wait a bit longer so you have a longer scape to harvest and enjoy!
  • Harvest too late: They’ll get woody and begin to negatively affect garlic bulb production 

What should I look for?

You’ll know that it’s the perfect time to harvest garlic scapes is when it has made a half or full curl. At this point, it is at a decent length for harvesting, but it should still be tender and delicious for eating!

A garlic scape that is at the perfect time for harvesting

If you wait too long, it will form a second curl (like in the photo below). Now, the scape will be a bit woody and has already diverted some of the plant energy away from the bulbs. These tough scapes are best used in oil infusions or added to bone broth for flavor.

Garlic scapes with 2 curls

If you continue to wait past this point, the garlic scapes will actually straighten out and the bulbs will begin to flower (see photo below). The scapes are inedible at this point and have impacted bulb development.

A photo of garlic scapes starting to flower

When should I expect garlic scapes to be ready?

As far as when you should expect your garlic scapes to be ready, it really depends on what hardiness zone you are in. If you’re not sure what zone you’re in, check out the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map!

General guidelines for when to harvest garlic scapes by hardiness zone:

  • Zones 3-4: Late June
  • Zones 5-6: Mid June
  • Zones 7-8: Early June
  • Zones 9+: Late May

However, don’t harvest your garlic bulbs just yet! Garlic bulbs need 4 more weeks to mature after the garlic scapes are removed. You know it’s time to harvest garlic bulbs when the lower 2-3 sets of leaves have yellowed.

How to Harvest Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes are easy and fun to harvest! Once they have reached the correct length (one curl), take your garden shears and snip the scape off right at the base where it meets the top set of leaves.

Gather your garlic scapes in a basket, bag, or tea towel (my personal favorite), then bring them into the house to enjoy!

A photo of me holding my garden sheers up to the garlic scape to be harvested

How to Store Garlic Scapes

The best way to store garlic scapes is to wrap them in a damp towel or inside a loose plastic bag. Once packaged this way and placed in the fridge, they should keep for 2-3 weeks.

Another option is placing them in a cup of water (cut side down) on the counter. However, they’ll only keep for a few days this way.

How to Use Garlic Scapes

When it comes to using garlic scapes, the possibilities are endless! I also love that they are a tasty treat that you’ll rarely find at the grocery store. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Pesto Power: Whip up some delicious garlic scape pesto by blending with fresh basil, parmesan cheese, pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon. Spread it on sourdough bread, toss it with pasta, or use it as a delicious marinade.
  • Sautéed Sensation: Chop garlic scapes into bite-sized pieces and sauté them with grass-finished tallow or extra virgin olive oil until they become tender and slightly caramelized. Enjoy them as a tasty side dish or incorporate them into stir-fries, omelets, quiche, or even fried rice for an extra burst of flavor.
  • Grilled Goodness: Brush garlic scapes with melted grass-finished tallow or extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle them with salt, and pepper, and throw them on the grill. They’ll be slightly charred and perfect for adding a smoky touch to salads or grilled meats.
  • Pickle Perfection: Create tangy and crunchy pickled garlic scapes by combining them with vinegar, water, sea salt, a pinch of sugar, and spices of your choice. Let them sit in the brine for a week or so, then you’ll have a delightful condiment to jazz up sandwiches, burgers, or even cheese platters.
  • Scrumptious Soups: Add a unique twist to your soups by incorporating chopped garlic scapes. They can bring a subtle garlic flavor that is a perfect complement to pretty much any dish!

How to Preserve Garlic Scapes

Preserving garlic scapes allows you to enjoy them long after their growing season has passed – woo hoo! Here are a few popular methods to preserve them.

A photo of chopped garlic scapes in a bowl


Chop the garlic scapes into small pieces and blanch them briefly for 1-2 minutes. Plunge them into ice water to cool quickly, then drain and pat dry. Freeze on a baking sheet in a flat layer, then transfer to a freezer-safe bag or container (removing as much air as possible).

I love using my Weston vacuum sealer for this!

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Create flavorful pickled garlic scapes by packing them into sterilized jars and covering them with a vinegar brine. The brine can be a simple mixture of vinegar, water, salt, and sugar, or you can get creative by adding spices like mustard seeds, peppercorns, or dill. 

Seal the jars and refrigerate them for a few weeks to allow the flavors to develop. Pickled garlic scapes make a fantastic addition to salads, sandwiches, or charcuterie boards.

Freeze Drying

Freeze drying is quickly becoming my favorite way to preserve my garden bounty! It’s easy, preserves the nutritional content, and has a shelf life of up to 25 years. A triple win! Simply chop the garlic scapes into 1-inch pieces, spread them out on the freeze dryer trays, and let them go! Pack in an airtight container or a mylar bag with an oxygen absorber.

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Chop the garlic scapes into 1″ pieces and spread them out on dehydrator trays. Dry at 135 degrees F for about 24 hours. You know that they’re done when they are dry and brittle. They should snap in half!

Don’t have a dehydrator? No problem! Hang the garlic scapes in bundles or spread them out on a drying rack in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight. Allow them to air dry until they become crispy and brittle, usually taking a few weeks.

Once fully dried, store them in airtight containers in a cool, dark place. Dried garlic scapes can be crushed into flakes or ground into powder and used as a seasoning in various dishes.

Oil Infusion

Oil infusions are a great way to use up scapes if they end up a bit woody. Chop and dry garlic scapes as described above. Drying them first is important to reduce the risk of mold growth in your oil infusion.

Place dried scapes in a clean jar and cover with extra virgin olive oil until fully submerged. Add a lid and store in a cool, dark place for 1-2 weeks to allow the flavors to infuse.

Once finished, strain and transfer the infused oil into a new container. Use the infused oil in dressings, marinades, or as a flavorful drizzle over roasted vegetables. YUM!

Nutritional Value of Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes are not only delicious, but they are good for you, too! High in fiber, protein, and calcium, they are sure to be a filling, nourishing addition to your next meal or snack.

Plus, they are good sources of polyphenols and allicin, similar to garlic bulbs (Naheed, 2017). These benefits include preventing cancer, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, lipid abnormalities, metabolic disorders, skin, bone, and other common diseases (Ansary, 2020)

A close up view of harvested garlic scapes on a wooden background

FAQ About When to Harvest Garlic Scapes

Can I eat the bulb at the end of the scapes?

Technically, yes. They are edible, but they are quite tough and woody. I personally snip them off and either discard them in my compost pile or toss them into a batch of bone broth to infuse some delicious garlic flavor.

Do all garlic varieties produce scapes?

Nope! Only hardneck varieties of garlic do. Softneck varieties do not produce scapes.

Can you cut garlic scapes off too early?

Not necessarily. If you trim it off early (such as before it has started to curl), you’ll simply have fewer garlic scapes to enjoy eating.

Ready to Grow Garlic? Don’t Make These 7 Common Mistakes!

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Final Thoughts

Garlic scapes are such a unique treat from the garden. Now that you know when to harvest garlic scapes, you’ll be able to enjoy them at the right time while also encouraging the growth of large garlic bulbs. A double win!

Make sure to try them many different ways – pestos, sautéed, grilled, pickled, etc. and share your favorites with us in the comments!  Happy harvesting and bon appétit!

*Are you interested in starting a garden, but feeling overwhelmed with where to start? Or maybe you’ve tried a garden in the past, but it flopped? Definitely check out my course How to Plan a Garden: Step-By-Step and don’t forget my discount code “GARDEN” for 10% off!

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*Information in this article was referenced from personal experience and/or from my favorite gardening book: The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, unless otherwise noted.

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