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The scapes are the garlic's flower stem and are mostly associated with hard neck garlics.
Before harvesting, hardneck garlic typically sends up a scape which normally curls then straightens before the garlic is harvested (softneck garlic can scape when stressed). Semi-bolting hardneck types (creole, turban, asiatic) in milder-winter areas do not necessarily produce a scape.
The garlic plant puts energy into forming the scape so many growers remove them to direct the plants resources into developing the bulb. We have found there is a direct correlation of bulb size and scape removal of around 10-30%. On the flip side scapes left during curing result in the bulb drawing more nutrients during the drying process and it is likely they will store longer.
Different types of garlic are more affected if the scape is not removed. Creole, porcelain, rocambole, purple stripe types respond well to scape removal, producing larger bulbs while turbans and asiatics less so. In saying that, some growers believe rocambole is minimally impacted by scape removal. As a general rule, garlic types which produce the tallest, thickest and largest scapes will grow larger bulbs if the scape is removed. Some growers have found that by leaving the scape on during drying that the plant's bulbs are harder as well as storing longer. An example of a Turban scape is pictured below.
We remove the scape before they begin to curl, before they are longer than 20cm tall. Some growers including ourselves believe the earlier the better. Other growers remove the scape once they curl. There is no scientific evidence to support either approach as to when to remove the scape.
If removing the scape, do so on a dry day so the break can heal cleanly without introducing infection and disease. When you see the firm stalk rise up from the middle of the leaves snap (not pull) it off the stalk by hand (if the scape is small) or with secateurs below the umbel before it widens.
If the scape is pulled, it may result in the pseudostem becoming weak and will let water down into the bulb. The scape can be sauteéd, be part of a salad or stir fried as mentioned under the eating section.
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