Scapes are produced for the most part by hard neck varieties. They are firm, round seed stems that grow up from the middle of the garlic plant. They will produce a flower on top where the bulbils are found inside like little seeds. They can be stored in the refrigerator for quite some time. They add a much lighter element of garlic to dishes and are delicious to grill as well as to add into different recipes such as stir fries, grilled, or even made into a pesto for pasta.
Scapes usually form two to three months or after the first leaves. In our area they usually start growing early June. They start off growing straight and then will start curving in circles. There are several different opinions that people have about pulling scapes. Some say to cut them off before they curl as this is when they are most tender and the best to be eaten. Others say to leave them on until they start to curl the second time around, when you can snap them off and before they get so woody that you need a knife to cut them. Others say to leave them on until they are done with the second curl and begin to straighten up and then cut them. The reasoning behind this is that it gives you a larger garlic bulb as the energy of the plant can then be funneled into growing the bulb and not growing the scape. Not all scapes will curl twice. Some only do one curl and then will start to shoot up straight. It will all depend on the variety that you are growing.
However a few people have the opinion to leave the scape on until it grows straight after curling. They say it does not affect the size of their bulb and it definitely increases the storage time. We pull ours after they have curled one to two times and have had excellent storage time. Our reasoning being is that we plant later and we also have very good bulb size already as well. If you leave your scape on, when it stands up straight that is usually a good indication that the garlic is almost ready to be harvested.
Beware of the juice of the scape. We have found it is the most potent and will cause whatever it touches to smell very heavily of garlic. We often use gloves and very old clothes when we cut scapes to avoid smelling like garlic for many days afterwards.