Not many know this but you can harvest Garlic during several stages of growth and harvest the scapes, young spring garlic, or mature garlic bulbs.
Edible parts of Garlic like Spring Garlic, scapes, or the grown garlic bulbs require different harvesting. Let us look at each of them below.
What is Spring Garlic?
I’m sure you have heard about spring onions, but what is Spring Garlic?
Spring garlic is the first growth of the garlic bulb after the ground has thawed after freezing.
The upper portions are green and young. The bottom portion has a singular bulb that has not yet formed cloves and is white with purple speckles.
The highlight of this form of garlic is the fact that it has a unique flavor that often people call ‘mild’, ‘sweet’ accompanied by an almost ‘nutty’ aroma.
What are garlic scapes?
Garlic Scapes are the stalk or the tender stem of a hardneck garlic plant.
They are similar to spring onions in both use and taste. These distinctly curly tendrils will eventually develop into flowers if left alone. These flowers will also develop a bulbil that bears real garlic seeds. Although these seeds are rarely used.
Scapes will appear after a few weeks (3 to 4 weeks) of forming of spring garlic.
Besides their application in the kitchen, many garlic growers prefer to harvest the scapes for better garlic growth as they drain away resources from the garlic bulb.
In fact, if you want large mature garlic heads, you should remove any scapes as soon as they appear to assure superior garlic bulbs.
When to harvest Spring Garlic?
Before growing and forming fully mature garlic bulbs, garlic plants must pass through a few stages of growth which reaps different edible parts along the way. Spring garlic is one such stage of growth that offers edible stems and a small bulb.
Want to know more about these stages? Read here the stages of garlic growth.
You can ideally harvest a handful of garlic plants after a week of seeing the first shoots above the ground. Leave the rest to mature and grow into full garlic heads. Harvesting spring garlic is possible until the bulbs are mature which usually happens after nine months of planting.
Do not go overboard and harvest too much spring garlic as you will have a reduced harvest of mature garlic bulbs. Remember, garlic scapes and spring garlic are just delicacies and not meant to be the prize of growing garlic.
Spring garlic looks awfully similar to spring onions. They both have long leaves and end with a small fresh bulb.
Both the green leaves and the young bulb of garlic are delicacies that you can utilize in your cooking endeavors.
When growing from the clove, spring garlic is the first type of eatable garlic that will be harvested.
Harvesting Spring Garlic just before maturation
Harvesting your garlic 1 or 2 months before the nine-month mark is also quite OK!
Early harvesting will give you young garlic bulbs. The only difference between these and mature garlic is the size of the bulbs.
Young garlic is much smaller in size but makes up for its taste and desirable properties. They contain more moisture and appear better for people who love fresh harvests of vegetables.
Another perk is that the skin surrounding the bulb is still soft and usable as are some sections of the green stalks. These young stalks might not be as intense in terms of taste but are acceptable if you do not want to wait for another month or two to harvest the full garlic batch.
Harvesting Garlic Scapes
Scapes will appear after a few weeks (3 to 4 weeks) of forming of spring garlic. You will not miss harvesting these curly stems since they have a light green color as opposed to the dark green plant stems.
Once harvested, you should use these garlic scapes soon as they tend to wither away in the short span of just a week! Freezing could prolong their longevity to eat for a short period.
You can leave a few scapes on the plants since they will grow into pleasant white or purple flowers. These will in turn help you to know when to harvest your garlic plants.
Harvesting Mature Garlic
This is the day that every garlic grower eagerly awaits for their hard work and effort to be returned in the form of healthy garlic. Prior to pulling out the mature garlic, there will be several signs of maturation.
These include a proportional number of brown dry leaves to green ones. Also, the remaining scapes would be in full bloom by now. If you are still unsure, go ahead and harvest one or two plants as a tester.
Mature bulbs will be large and have outer wrapping that has already begun drying out.
Harvesting garlic the wrong way can impact the keeping time of your garlic, therefore be gentle and use the right technique of first loosening the soil around the bulb!
Garlic grown in the fall is ready to harvest the following year during summer, taking almost 9 months to grow. Harvesting is a long time-consuming process that can take time, start early if you need to.
How to Harvest Spring Garlic?
You harvest garlic the same way you would harvest any root vegetable.
Using the appropriate tool like a shovel you can leverage the entire plant out of the soil.
Be careful not to damage the bulb while pulling it out of the ground. If done in a rough manner, you could damage the young garlic and put others as well at the risk of infection.
Storing Garlic Scapes and Spring Garlic
When it comes to spring garlic and garlic scapes, they lack that extra protection that makes them last longer. This is the case even if you keep them refrigerated.
Thus spring garlic and scapes are called ‘seasonal delicacy’ that must be enjoyed when fresh.
Scapes can last not more than a few days in a glass of clean water (changed daily) and a few weeks (2 to 3 weeks) when placed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Spring garlic can last a few weeks but is prone to becoming dehydrated if not put in a proper container before refrigeration.
This poor keeping capacity of these edible garlic parts is also the reason why you will not commonly find them at the grocery store. Instead, you are very likely to find them in abundance at a farmer’s market where fresh produce is constantly in circulation.
Even with such short expiry dates, you should still opt for buying or harvesting such edible produce. They offer an exclusive flavor that you may not find elsewhere.
How to Use Spring Garlic and Scapes
Garlic Scapes and Spring Ginger can be used the same way spring onions are used. They can form the base of a dish by being used in the way onions are. Or they can be chopped up finely and used to garnish a dish.
They give a distinct aroma and even if they cannot be seen, they will be smelt and tasted. Here are the best ways to use spring garlic and scapes:
- Blitzed in pesto or sauce
- Chopped in a stir fry
- Garnish in omelets and salads
- Pickled in vinegar (kept whole)
- Finely diced in a dressing
- Diced and mixed with a sauce (as a meat marinade)
Spring garlic or green garlic can be harvested as early as 2 to 4 months after planting after a week of seeing the first shoots above ground.
Spring garlic is an immature form of garlic that still has bulbs that have not undergone too much development. They resemble spring onions, hence the name “spring garlic”.
Garlic scapes are curly tendrils that develop into a flower if left on the plant. You can harvest them 3 to 4 weeks after harvesting spring garlic. That is after 2.5 or 5 months after planting the garlic cloves.
Cut the scapes just where they meet the leaf. Harvest them before they bloom into a flower as they draw energy towards them, away from the garlic bulbs.
Although they sound the same and may resemble each other, they are completely different. Spring garlic is immature garlic while spring onions are immature onions. Both have stems and roots that are edible and they belong to the same family of Allium plants.