Garlic scapes are the “tails” or “sprouts” that grow from the top of the stalk,
usually thru June in Maine. The scapes make a loop-tee-loop and then straighten into an extended stalk
topped with a cluster of what are known as bulbils. Bulbils, about the size of a large pea, are another
way garlic propagates, and are little clones of the garlic just as the cloves are. Egyptian onions, walking
onions, etc have similar structures often called “top sets” They are not true seeds. Imagine in the wild, a
garlic with its scape and bulbils atop that. When the wild garlic stalk topples over (since no one
harvests it), these top set bulbils are now 2' to 4' from the original head/mother plant. What a great way
to insure a new population that can grow without competing with the mother plant, and maybe escape
any diseases plaguing the mother plant as well! This top set structure also contains the potential
flowering parts of the garlic, but most people conclude that domesticated garlic has lost the ability to
flower naturally. I could debate this or explain more but.....this is lengthy as it is.
As garlic growers, we want to remove the garlic scapes as they emerge and begins to make the first
loop. This is easily done by snapping the garlic scape stem right where it takes its bend, usually in mid to late
June in Maine. There are some folks that say keeping the garlic scapes on makes no difference in size to the
harvested head and helps the garlic store longer. Both assertions are false. Leaving the scapes on will
stunt Hardneck garlic. Period. I have experimented and you do not have to experience the same folly.
The storage of garlic is related to good soil nutrition affecting garlic growth/maturity, proper curing,
and good storage conditions. Period.
Many of you are familiar with the edible nature of garlic scapes; the green stem is diced into stir fries
& sauces, pureed into scape pesto, whatever you can imagine. The pale, pointy tip is not really edible,
more fiber than flavor. In general, Hardneck types have scapes, and Softneck types do not. After
growing a lot of garlic, I have seen some interesting variations occur where a Softneck grows garlic scapes
and a Hardneck does not! I find Porcelain varieties to have the thickest, most succulent garlic scapes which
emerge earlier than other Hardnecks.