What are Garlic Flowers ?
Updated: Jul 31
Garlic flowers are the blossoms that emerge at the end of long, hollow green stems known as scapes 1
3 . These flowers are medium-sized, measuring between 4 to 6 centimeters in diameter, and are commonly lavender to purple but can also be found in white and magenta. 1 2. The blossoms are comprised of many tiny flowers called bulbils, which can be the size of a grain of rice or as large as a centimeter and contain six thin petals surrounding a center with long anthers 1 . Garlic flowers have a delicate onion-garlic taste that works well in various savory culinary applications
1 . The clustered blooms can be displayed in their full pompom form as a beautiful garnish on cheese and charcuterie boards, platters, or large family-style dishes. The tiny florets can also be separated and sprinkled over fresh green salads and potato and grain dishes like mashed, scalloped potatoes, rice, farro, and couscous 1 . Garlic scapes, on the other hand, are the tender stem and flower bud of a hardneck garlic plant 6 . They are typically harvested to encourage bulb growth, but they can also be eaten and have a unique blend of onion, scallion, and garlic taste 6 . Garlic scapes are usually less fiery and have a fresher, "greener" taste than the actual garlic bulbs 6.
How to cook with garlic flowers and scapes
Cooking with garlic flowers, specifically the scapes, can add a unique and flavorful twist to your dishes. Scapes are edible, with a milder taste than the garlic bulb itself. Add your young scapes to rice, quinoa, and 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. Here are some ways to cook with garlic flowers:
Sautéed: Garlic scapes can be sautéed in a pan with some oil or butter until they are tender and slightly caramelized. This method brings out their natural sweetness and adds a delicious garlic flavor to your dishes.
Stir-fried: Similar to sautéing, you can also stir-fry garlic scapes with other vegetables or proteins. This method allows the scapes to retain their crunchiness while adding a burst of garlic flavor to your stir-fry.
Grilled: Garlic scapes can be grilled for a smoky and charred flavor. Toss them with some oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill them until they are slightly charred and tender. Grilled garlic scapes make a great side dish or addition to salads.
Roasted: Roasting garlic scapes in the oven brings out their natural sweetness and creates a soft and caramelized texture. Toss them with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast them at a high temperature until they are golden brown and tender.
Pesto: Garlic scapes can be used as a main ingredient in a flavorful pesto sauce. Blend them with some nuts, cheese, olive oil, and herbs of your choice to create a vibrant and garlicky pesto. This can be used as a sauce for pasta, spread on sandwiches, or used as a dip.
Pickled: Garlic scapes can be pickled to preserve their flavor and add a tangy twist. Simply pack them in a jar with a mixture of vinegar, water, sugar, and spices, and let them sit for a few days to develop their flavor. Pickled garlic scapes make a great addition to salads, sandwiches, or charcuterie boards.
Garnish: The delicate and beautiful garlic flowers can be used as a garnish on various dishes. The clustered blooms can be displayed in their full pompom form on cheese and charcuterie boards, platters, or large family-style dishes. The tiny florets can also be separated and sprinkled over fresh green salads and potato and grain dishes.
Remember, garlic scapes have a milder and fresher taste compared to garlic bulbs, so you can experiment with different cooking methods to find your favorite way to enjoy them.
Should We Allow Garlic Scapes to Flower?
If you’re growing your garlic to produce large, flavorful and beautiful bulbs, it is a good idea to remove the garlic scapes from the plant as soon as they appear. After removing the scapes, you can put them into a glass of water and likely, you will see a garlic flower in a few weeks. The flower looks like a spiky white ball. Keep in mind that both the scape and the flower rob precious energy from the underground bulb. If you do not remove the scape, almost certainly, the garlic bulb will be much smaller than its neighbor who had a haircut.
Garlic scapes freeze well and can last for years in a chest freezer. They'll last for two-three weeks in the refrigerator after cutting. Scapes are sometimes available at locally-owned grocery stores or co-ops around early July and not readily available in the larger supermarkets. Harvesting and cutting your own from your garlic crop is the best way to get this tasty treasure.