Garlic scapes (also known as garlic tops, garlic shoots, green garlic, spring baby garlic, garlic spears, early garlic greens, or garlic “flowers”) are the curly tipped, extremely tasty green shoots that grow from “heads” of hardneck (or topset) garlic which are usually discarded before harvesting in most of the U.S.
This is quite a shame because garlic scapes are a versatile and nutritious culinary treasure that is valued in Korean, Chinese, Thai, Polynesian, and coastal French cuisine.
(Asian markets with produce sections are virtually guaranteed to stock fresh garlic scapes in season, but you can also find them at farmers’ markets, and gourmet supermarkets. Frozen garlic scapes are even easier to find and are readily available year-round in the freezer section of most Asian supermarkets.)
Taste-wise, garlic scapes are to garlic heads what scallions are to onions. They are garlicky but with a fresh “green” taste. They can be used in any dish where one usually uses garlic but wants a brighter, more complex garlic flavor with less bite than one would get from standard garlic cloves.
Garlic scapes work well in soups, salads, stews, salsas, dips, guacamole, omelettes, frittatas, souffles, marinades, pesto, salad dressings, and stir-fry. They can also be pickled and added to homemade flavored vinegars. Scapes are also delightful when cooked into sauces.
A simple but wonderful garlic scape spread can be made by chopping some up and mixing them with softened cream cheese (or sour cream) and dill. When added to mayonnaise to make an aioli, the flavor of chopped garlic scapes becomes milder and the savory notes are more apparent.
You can also make pesto using them. Just follow your favorite pesto recipe and substitute garlic scapes for the basil leaves.
These tangly, green specimens look like a cross between a plant and an octopus. Essentially, they are the plant that grows out of the garlic you normally buy (garlic being a bulb and all). Have you ever left garlic out for a few weeks and had a green stalk shoot up? Well that, I believe, is a garlic scape the stalk of the garlic plant is also edible.