Garlic scapes, the first harvest from the garlic plant stalk, are nearly ready to harvest and gourmet chefs in the know understand that fresh scapes appear locally only once a year and only for about a week.
Scapes are the central flower stalk that appears on a near mature garlic plant when all the alternating oppositional leaf, “pairs,” have formed. Scapes are removed so that the nutrient energy in the plant goes to maximize the garlic bulb development rather than what eventually becomes a “seed” head or what is an approximately golf ball-cluster of bulbils atop a woody and tough stalk.
Scapes are most tender and considered prime when they are about a foot long, i.e. removed when they have formed a complete loop. Late harvested scapes have formed two loops and are past prime, getting less tender. Still usable and flavorful, cutting them early, you’ll use the whole scape. Some recipes recommend discarding the flower tips, which are more developed if the scapes are not harvested early.
Garlic scapes freeze very easily, rain-water rinsed and in a freezer bag, whole. Frozen scapes are an easy way to preserve full garlic flavor for a whole year: chopped fresh in salads, salsa, pesto of various kinds, omelets, winter soups and potato dishes. Garlic scapes are usually ready for harvest all at once in about a week’s time, in mid-June, about a month before digging the new garlic bulbs for curing.