Scapes In Our Landscape

Coppertop’s previous owners left behind a large plot of garlic, Allium sativum, planted in one of the raised beds. Garlic is known as the “stinking rose”; in our house we love the stink and add it to a wide range of dishes. All spring and summer I’ve watched the green shoots mature, and now we have garlic scapes. IMG_1693

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The scapes are the flower stems the garlic plants produce before they fully mature. I’m reasonably certain this garlic is the hardneck variety, since softneck and elephant varieties aren’t known for producing scapes. From an organic gardening site I rely on: “Within the hardneck family, there are nine sub-types of garlics: Purple Stripe, Marbled Purple Stripe, Asiatic, Glazed Purple Stripe, Creole, Middle Eastern, Turban, Rocambole, and Porcelain. The Purple Stripe and Rocambole types are the hardiest, best for gardeners who live in the northern U.S. and Canada.”

Many people harvest these stems early, cook them, and add them to dishes like pasta. I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with all the harvesting, so have instead let our scapes go crazy and artistic-looking as they flower in the midst of the veggie garden. They remind me of birds.

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There’s debate about removing the scapes or leaving them until harvest. Some sources say allowing them to blossom decreases overall bulb size, while others say the crop’s yield is actually higher when scapes are left alone. So confusing!

Our garlic bulbs will be ready for harvest very soon since the leaves are yellowing and beginning to wilt. I’m excited to dig up my first ever garlic crop, and I’ve read that gentleness is essential. Fresh garlic bruises easily so I’ll complete this task by hand and avoid using hard tools.

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