Lacto-Fermented Garlic Scapes

Fermented garlic scapes might be something you’ve never heard talked about because, well, you’ve never heard of garlic scapes themselves.

What are garlic scapes? Once you’ve seen them, you’ll never forget them. Dramatic and curling, with delicate white buds at the tips, scapes are the flower of the garlic plant, typically appearing in the garden in mid-June.

If you grow hard-neck varieties of garlic (soft-neck varieties do not produce scapes), you will want to cut the scapes off the plant so it will dedicate energy into making a larger bulb below the soil. Once you’ve cut all your scapes, you’ll end up with a beautiful pile of spirals, resembling curled-up green onions. These scapes are a delicious harvest on their own—a milder and sweeter version of the bulbs that will follow later in the season. They can be used in many dishes just like you’d use garlic: in soups, stir-fries, roasted with olive oil, even grilled. You can preserve scapes by chopping and freezing them for later use, or you can preserve a batch by fermenting them.

A quart jar filled with fermented garlic scapes is an impressive sight. The curls lay nicely inside the jar with the white buds peeking through some of horizontal, symmetric lines. It’s truly a work of art on your counter, and in the end, you’ll wind up with delicious scape pickles. Munch on them plain, or chop them up and use them as you would fresh scapes—but try not to heat them up too much, as you’ll lose probiotics that way. I like chopping a pickled scape and putting it into a salad or on top of a warm bowl of potato soup.

Lacto Fermented Garlic Scapes

• 1 wide-mouth quart jar

• 20-24 garlic scapes

• 2 1/2 c. filtered water (or leave tap water out overnight to evaporate the chlorine)

• 1 T. Himalayan Powder Salt

1. Harvest your scapes by cutting the stems where they meet the top leaves of the garlic plant. They are ready to harvest when they have become curled up and spiraled with white buds at the tips.

2. Bring scapes inside and trim the bottoms to remove the tough part. You can usually tell where the stem has become tough because it will be a lighter green or a yellow color. Or, you can test the stem like you would an asparagus stem; lightly bend it and where it bends naturally toward the bottom, trim. Leave everything else intact, especially the buds!

3. This is the fun part. Make sure your hands and all equipment are clean (sterilizing not necessary). One at a time, take the opposite ends of each scape and curl them together so they fit into the quart jar. Start stacking them, pressing them down occasionally. There is something very satisfying to see the jar filling with beautiful scapes—it’s like creating art!

4. In a separate spouted measuring cup, combine the water and salt until completely dissolved to make a brine. Pour the brine over the scapes, and place a weight over the top to keep the scapes submerged. There should be an inch of space between the top of the brine and the top of the jar. If you stacked the jar full of scapes, there should be enough brine (with a bit extra), but if you run short of brine, mix up another ½ c. water with 1/2 t. salt.

5. Place a lid on the jar, and an airlock if you have one. Place the jar of scapes out of direct sunlight, avoiding extreme temperatures. This is one ferment you’ll want to leave in plain sight—right on the counter—so that you can show it off!

6. Start testing the scapes after a week. The longer they ferment, the more sour bite they will get. Once they have reached a flavor you like, put the jar in the fridge, covered, removing the airlock if you used one. Enjoy your delicious scape pickles for up to six months–however, they may not even last until it’s time to harvest your garlic bulbs!

Andrea gardens, forages, cooks and ferments on a little plot in the city. She loves spreading the word about age-old practices and making them new, exciting and feasible for everyone. Find her at

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