Green Garlic vs. Scapes

green garlic garlic-scape-600-x-3942

OK, Maids — consider this one paying you back for my missed Feed Us Back post (I never knew FuB had fans!)

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the new green garlic product that I discovered at the Food Fete. Reader Kathleen Donovan posted this comment:

Isn’t the green part of the garlic called a scape? I’ve tried pickled scapes at a Garlic Festival and they’re delicious.

I have so far ignored Kathleen’s comment because, well, I was stumped. Had the green garlic guys duped me into writing about a not-so-new product? We have, after all, covered scapes here on ES before.

A search around the Interwebs didn’t exactly clear things up, with many writers referring to green garlic and garlic scapes as the same thing. Clearly they’re similar, but my long, straight green garlic with the little blubs attached just don’t look the same as those winding, loopy scapes. Melissa Clark had a long piece in NYT about both green garlic and garlic scapes, but didn’t quite explain the difference.

Finally I found this comment from Serious Eats user bodaciousgirl that offers the best explanation I’ve seen yet:

Green garlic and scape are not the same. Scape is the shoot that grows up through the soil from the garlic bulb. When it is pliable and loops around a couple times, it is pinched off the bulb to send more “energy” to the bulb to make it grow larger.

Green garlic is garlic that is harvested after the “scape” has straightened and looks like your typical scallion.

OK then, so green garlic and garlic scapes are the same part of the plant — just harvested at different times. As Melissa Clark notes, farmers have long cut the scapes off their garlic while it’s still growing, because getting rid of the scapes somehow makes the bulb grow larger. Most farmers simply discarded the scapes, but then in the last few years found out they could take them to the far mar and sell them to all us foodies desperate for new discoveries.

For green garlic, however, farmers let the scapes grow long and then harvest the whole plant, giving us the tiny bulbs along with the straightened scape. Bodacious girl claims the scapes are tastier, although I find they both have a pretty similar, less-bitey-than-raw-garlic flavor. Plus with the green garlic, you get the little bulb and shoots to play with too.

More on using green garlic in cooking to come…

(Photos: Sara / Island Vittles)

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  • Nee Nee July 20, 2010  

    I recommend this website for your garlic knowledge. I grew garlic from this company, and I can confirm that it does grow in the manner described on the website:

    Unless I am talking about something different than Bodocious Girl, spring or green garlic is the garlic plant growth after the planted clove emerges from the soil. Imagine a garlic plant roughly as tall as a scallion. The clove has not formed a garlic bulb, nor is the plant mature enough to send up a scape. Thus, it is called spring, green, or baby garlic. It’s really just the clove that was planted with the green plant on top of the white part, like in the photo above.

    The scape emerges from the top of the plant months later when the plants are 18-24 inches tall. The single clove that was planted is forming the bulb with multiple cloves underground. Once the scape is harvested, the plant leaves start to turn brown from the bottom of the plant up as the bulb matures in the soil. It about as far from green at that point as you can get.

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