Pickled Garlic Scapes


Scapes are the flowering stems that grow from hardneck garlic. Around here, fall planted garlic usually emerges in mid-April.  By early June it’s growing great and as the days get warmer the hardnecks bolt, sending up tender, delicious scapes. The scapes bend and curl as they grow, wrapping around and through each other like frisky boa-constrictors playing Twister. Unfortunately, as they curl, they become much less tender, replacing what was once a fantastically satisfying crunch with a woody chewiness. So it’s important to harvest scapes early, 180-degrees of curl is a good rule. (The scapes in these pictures are a bit too curly and thus too woody. But I suppose tender treats are the price one must pay waiting to make a picture.) It’s this need to harvest, to beat the woodiness,  that makes scapes such a fleeting, garden treasure. They arrive from nowhere. One day there are none and almost literally the next day the whole garlic bed is in scapes. From there, it’s two weeks, maybe even 10 days, maybe even less before they’re past their prime. Asparagus is known as the archetypal fleeting vegetable and it’s season is four or five times longer than garlic scapes’. Even fennel pollen, my absolute favorite garden delight, lasts longer than scapes. Garlic scapes are momentary. Pay too much mind to the rhubarb and you may well miss them.


Scapes make hardneck garlic perfect for our tiny market farm. They give us two crops. In the spring we harvest and sell the scapes. (We have to harvest them. If we don’t the plant devotes too much energy to the scape and produces a tiny bulb.) Then, in the fall we dig and sell the bulbs. We can’t do this with softneck varieties. They don’t scape-up so they’re a one shot deal. (Though softneck is a much better storage garlic so we do grow both.)


In the kitchen garlic scapes are a joy, warm and mellow with a tender, inviting crunch. When I’m on point and harvest them early enough, they blend into a smooth, fresh, sharp pesto. If I blew it and cut them old and tough, I soften them on the grill with a bit of olive oil. They make a great pizza topping and are fantastic on salad. But my favorite application, the one that defies their brief flash of perfection and allows me to enjoy their goodness for months rather than days is pickling. Pickling imbibes a wonderfully bright and deep flavor. It saves for tomorrow the beauty I would otherwise have lost today.


Pickled Garlic Scapes

The very best way to preserve spring’s goodness


  • 1 lb fresh garlic scapes
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 2+ tablespoons white wine vinegar (optional, add for sharpness)
  • 1/4 cups kosher salt
  • 2 ea bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 sprig fresh dill or fresh fennel frond or both


If the scapes are tender, cut them into pieces and add to a clean resealable jar. If they are woody, boil them for 3-5 minutes in salted water to soften, then cut and add to a clean jar.

Add vinegar, water, salt, bay and chopped garlic to a pan and boil for 5 minutes. Pour hot liquid over garlic scapes and allow them to cool, uncovered until they reach 40 degrees. Cap the jar and let them cure for a full week. The pickled scapes will be good for at least a month.

2 comments to Pickled Garlic Scapes

  • Carolyn

    Dude! Nice site. Even better food photography. Loved seeing you guys at the farmer’s market. Next time Josh and I get a Saturday off together, we’ll be down to support. Loved that lemony lettuce stuff. What is it again?

  • Mike

    Carolyn – Great seeing you too. As for the lettuce, stop by the booth and we’ll set you up with a bag. We’re also at the Wednesday night market held at the Left Hand brewery. Stop by! What’s better than produce and beer?

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