If you are wanting to learn more about how to cook with scapes, this is for you! In this complete guide to garlic scapes and leek scapes, I’ll give you a number of fresh and easy ideas for using these versatile ingredients!
I have been cooking with scapes for a few years now, and they are one of my favorite ways to add something special to a dish when they are in season. This post goes in depth on not only what garlic scapes and leek scapes are, but cooking methods, uses, storage, and more. Just a warning, it may get a little nerdy in here.
What Are Scapes?
Scapes grow from the very top of the green part of leeks, garlic and shallots. If the scapes are not harvested and allowed to grow, the plant will eventually flower. If that happens, the leeks, garlic, and or shallots will not grow as large or be as flavorful.
Why is that? The plant has to put too much energy into growing the scape and flowering, which means less effort goes into the plants producing the actual crop you are trying to grow.
In the past, many farmers would simply discard or compost scapes rather than use them or sell them. That has changed a great deal. Today, you see many markets and farm stands selling scapes (I learned all of this thanks to working on an organic farm that specializes in growing garlic. Ask farmers about their crops, they love to talk about it!).
Not only are scapes tasty and easy to cook, but they are a fabulous way to reduce kitchen waste because they are eaten rather than simply thrown away.
This post will focus on garlic and leek scapes. While shallots also have scapes, They are not very common. I live in an agriculture rich area full of farms, and I have only seen shallot scapes for sale once at a farmers market. Their flavor is very similar to a mild onion, while looking more like a garlic scape.
Leek Scapes vs Garlic Scapes
Leek scapes and garlic scapes have a lot in common. Both have a milder flavor than the plant they grow from (much more on flavors later in the post) and they are versatile to cook with.
It is important to note that leek scapes and garlic scapes are not the same thing, and while they can have similar uses I wouldn’t necessarily call them interchangeable in recipes. Not only is their flavor profile not the same, but they are completely different plants.
They each have their own distinct look and are easy to tell apart (more on that further down in the post).
When Are Scapes In Season?
Leek scapes appear in mid spring, while garlic scapes take a little longer to emerge. Garlic scapes usually arrive in late Spring /early Summer.
Personally, I find that scapes tell a timeline of the Spring and Summer seasons. When leek scapes are at my farmers market, I know Spring is truly here.
When it’s time for garlic scapes, it is to be sure that Summer is at my doorstep.
The season for each is unfortunately short. When they are available, you can only find leek or garlic scapes for a period of about four weeks or so, maybe a little longer.
I’d love for them to be around longer, but thankfully they make an appearance for enough time to add a little seasonal punch to your cooking.
Garlic scapes are those green curly and lovely stalks you see at the farmers market. They have a distinct look that is hard to miss and nice mild garlic flavor.
What Do Garlic Scapes Look Like?
Garlic scapes are long and thin, and as they grow from the top of the garlic plant, they begin to curl. This curl is a unique identifier of garlic scapes. They have a small slightly rounded top and above that a long and thin greens.
What Do Garlic Scapes Taste Like?
They taste very much like garlic, only a bit milder. They do have their own kick though, just not quite as pungent as garlic. As far as texture goes, when they are raw they have a bit of a crunch not unlike raw asparagus. When cooked, they get softer much like asparagus when it’s cooked.
What Part Of A Garlic Scape Do You Eat?
You can actually eat the whole thing, though I don’t personally use the tops because I find they don’t have as much flavor as the rest of the scape. The tops are edible but if you are going to eat them, the rounded section and long green top are best raw as they burn really easily if you try to cook them.
How To Use Garlic Scapes
Garlic scapes can be used raw or cooked, and they may be substituted for garlic in pretty much any dish you would use garlic in. My personal recommendation is not to use garlic scapes in any slow cooked dish with other strong flavors like a tomato sauce or a soup or stew. Their flavor gets lost in applications like that.
However, they are fabulous in dips such as hummus, stirred into a risotto, added to a salad or stir fry, used in pasta filling such as my Garlic Scape Ravioli, or try them in place of garlic the next time you make a Summer vinaigrette. They are also very nice chopped and added to my Farro Salad with Spring Vegetables or my Potato Salad with Spring Onions.
Cooking With Garlic Scapes
Garlic scapes cook quickly on the grill or in a saute pan. When roasting them you really have to keep a close eye so they don’t burn. I’ve found it’s easier to grill them or cook them on the stovetop.
You can chop them and add them to a dish the same manner you would use garlic. If you want to swap them for garlic in a recipe, keep in mind they cook fast so you may want to add them a bit later than you would garlic cloves.
What To Serve With Garlic Scapes
Garlic scapes pair well with a lot of dishes. Serve them as a side for steak, fish, or grilled chicken. They go well with many desserts, such as my Strawberry Shortcake In A Jar or No Bake Ruby Chocolate Tart. They are a terrific addition to a summer BBQ menu.
Roasted Garlic Scapes
When roasted, garlic scapes become soft with a somewhat creamy texture and a lovely mild garlic flavor. To roast, simply place them on a sheet pan, drizzle with oil and a little salt and pepper, and roast for about 5 minutes in a 450 degree oven. Stay close by when roasting so they don’t burn.
How To Store Garlic Scapes
Garlic scapes can be stored whole as they are either on your kitchen counter or in your refrigerator. Keep them whole until ready to use, don’t pre cut them. If you do, they lose potency.
How Long Do Garlic Scapes Last?
Refrigerated or at room temperature, they will last one to two weeks. You know they are going bad when they begin to harden and get woody.
Can Garlic Scapes Be Frozen?
If you think about it, most anything can be frozen. My answer here is a very hesitant yes, with a caveat: I have frozen garlic scapes, and the freezer strips them of nearly all of their flavor and turns them a bit soggy.
This is not a result I personally want, so my recommendation is don’t freeze them in an attempt to prolong your time with garlic scapes. Enjoy them fresh in the present moment.
Now, on to Leek Scapes!
Leek Scapes are something you have possibly seen at a farmers market and wondered what they are. Every time I am at my local market when they are available, it is the one item in the produce stand that gets the most questions. If you see some, buy them! They are really amazing!
What Do Leek Scapes Look Like?
They are long, straight, and narrow much like a spear of asparagus. They can grow over a foot long above the tops of the leek plant, as seen in the photo below. Their tops are much more rounded than that of a garlic scape.
What Do Leek Scapes Taste Like?
Leek Scapes have an absolutely lovely mild onion flavor. The flavor is a bit stronger raw, but mellows out nicely when cooked. Whether raw or cooked, they have a complex flavor and crunch that I love.
What Part Of A Leek Scape Do You Eat?
The long stalk is fine to eat, but be sure to discard the flowering top. As you can see in the photos below, it is merely the beginnings of a flower, and the texture is not one you would want in a finished dish.
How To Use Leek Scapes
Leek Scapes are the unsung hero of a mid Spring menu. They are a true workhorse! Leek Scapes add zing to my Potato Salad with Leek Scapes and Herbs, and they are almost pure magic paired with bacon in my Leek Scape Dip with Bacon and White Cheddar.
They are wonderful in stir fry, and they can be used much the way you would garlic scapes. Add them to risotto, slice and toss into a green salad, or add them to my Rigatoni Primavera.
Cooking With Leek Scapes
Leek scapes can be cooked whole or sliced into coins or on the bias. They are quite good grilled. They cook rather fast when sliced and sauteed, so watch them. I find that their flavor holds up better in some cooked dishes that the flavor of garlic scapes would get lost, such as cream sauces.
What To Serve With Leek Scapes
They go really well with chicken, beef, fish, or pork. My No Bake Mojito Cheesecakes in a Jar would be a nice refreshing dessert to add to your menu. Try my Easy Strawberry Basil Lemonade or Rhubarb Lemonade as a beverage, both are nice options.
Leek scapes are great with mashed or roasted potatoes and their flavor holds up well to gravy. I know they are grown in the Spring and it is normally a Fall and Winter dish, but try them served with mashed potatoes and gravy. You won’t be sorry.
Roasted Leek Scapes
This is probably my favorite preparation. Roasting leek scapes creates an almost unbeatable texture and flavor.
It’s really easy to roast them, just place your leek scapes on a rimmed baking sheet (tops trimmed off) in a single layer and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, drizzle with a little oil, and place in a 450 degree oven for about 10 minutes.
Before long, you’ll find you’ve eaten them right off the sheet pan while cleaning your kitchen (don’t ask me how I know that).
How To Store Leek Scapes
Leek scapes will keep just fine on your kitchen counter or in the refrigerator in a freezer bag. I find keeping them out of refrigeration does help preserve their flavor.
How Long Do Leek Scapes Last?
Leek scapes will last one to two weeks on your counter or in the refrigerator (though I find room temperature storage is best).
When the bottom end starts to harden and get stiff, they are going bad. Fresh leek scapes will have some bend and flexibility to them.
Can Leek Scapes Be Frozen?
Yes and No. Yes they can but no, you shouldn’t. They will be very soggy once defrosted and almost all of their flavor will be gone. Think of it like freezing onions. Just don’t. Enjoy your leek scapes when they are fresh.
Can Garlic Scapes and Leek Scapes Be Used In The Same Recipe?
There are years when there is some overlap with both. When they are both available you can most certainly use them in the same dish together. I think they are particularly nice in a frittata or tossed with some pasta if you have both.
If you are reading this, thank you for being here. I certainly hope this post was useful! If you tried any of the suggested recipes, I’d love to hear how it turned out! Just leave a comment below. If you’d like to share this guide with friends, take a picture of a suggested use for scapes that you made and tag me @thecoppertable in a post on Instagram, pin to a board on Pinterest or share on Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere else you like! If you have not signed up for my newsletter, you can do that below. I have all sorts of exclusive content just for newsletter subscribers, and I’d love for you to join. Happy Cooking!