By Emma Crist
Updated June 23, 2016

What are Garlic Scapes?

Have you noticed bunches of the long, vibrant-green stalks pictured above at your local farmer's market this summer and thought, "What the heck is that?" but didn't say it out loud because you didn't want to sound ignorant? Don't worry--you're not alone. Garlic scapes might just be the best vegetable you've never heard of, and I'd highly recommend you start cooking with them (and I'll explain why in a minute).

Garlic scapes, also known as garlic shoots or curls, are the stalks of hard-necked varieties of garlic plants. As the garlic bulb grows and hardens underground, these stringy tendrils eventually shoot through the ground in the late spring and early summer (you'll see them pop up at the farmer's market in mid to late June). These stalks will eventually bloom flowers when the garlic plant is fully mature, but they're often harvested first to encourage the garlic plant to focus all its work on producing the tastiest, most flavorful bulbs.

How Do I Use Them?

Garlic scapes are extremely versatile and can be used similarly to how you would use garlic or scallions to add flavor in a wide array of recipes. You can eat them raw or cooked, and both whole or chopped. Eaten raw, they are are crunchy like green beans--but with bigger flavor. To prep them, simply trim the end that was attached to the bulb and throw away the flowery blossom. Then, cut into small coins or larger, string bean-size stalks. Enjoy them sautéed into stir-fries, incorporated into omelets, blended into pesto, scattered over pizza, thinly sliced in salads, etc.

What do They Taste Like?

The texture is similar to scallions, albeit a bit crunchier. They are fairly mild-tasting--at a similar flavor level of a scallion--but offer a hint of unmistakable and delightful garlicky pungency.

How Do I Store Them?

Next time you're at the farmer's market, pick up a bunch. They can be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for up to two weeks. Much like garlic bulbs, the stalks will gradually soften and lose their punch.