Should you let garlic flower?

Garlic is a bulb-producing vegetable loved by allotmenteers and home growers alike, but did you know that it also produces a flower, called a ‘scape’? Find out more about scapes and what to do with them in our quick guide below.

What is a garlic scape?

Garlic scapes emerge on curling cylindrical stems in late spring
Image: Shutterstock/Mikhail_Nau

Garlic bulbs produce a flower like any other vegetable, and this is known as the ‘scape’. Identify your garlic scape by looking for a long green tendril rising up out of the growing part of the bulb. This is cylindrical, unlike the leaves which are flat and straplike. Immature scapes often have a bump in the middle or at the end of the stalk where the developing flower head is hidden. Look out for scapes on your garlic plants from late spring to early summer.

What should you do with your garlic flower?

Garlic scapes being grown
Cook up your garlic scapes for a tasty and novel addition to the table
Image: Shutterstock/AMV_80

If you’re growing your garlic to produce large and strongly-flavoured bulbs, make sure to remove your garlic scapes as soon as they appear and definitely before they flower properly. The flower takes energy away from the developing underground bulb, but doesn’t detract from the flavour unless left to fully open and mature, so don’t worry too much if you miss a couple.

Scapes are edible, with a milder taste than the garlic bulb itself. Add your young scapes to salads, or treat them like you would a garlic bulb or wet garlic. Pick them young, while the flower is still concealed in the bud, so they’re tender. They’re delicious fried with butter, salt and pepper, or in a pesto.

Garlic scapes last for around three weeks in the fridge after cutting. They’re not readily available in the supermarket, so cutting your own from your garlic crop is the best way to get your hands on this tasty novelty.

We hope you enjoy your garlic scapes! Find out how to grow your own garlic with our garlic growing guide.

Lead image: Garlic ‘Rose Wight’ from Suttons

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