Leeks strike me as among some of the most humble yet elegant vegetables out there. Part of the onion family, the long stalks are white at the base and gradually turn to various shades of green at the top. They look great, smell amazing, and taste even better. This cold-weather stunner is nutritious and reasonably affordable this time of year, which is why we’re shining our seasonal spotlight on lovely leeks!
If you haven’t tried cooking with leeks yet, please give them a shot! You won’t be disappointed. They’re damn delicious and offer many health benefits.
Leeks are said to have many anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce your risk of certain cancers, osteoporosis, and diabetes. They’re fat-free and have a high fiber and water content, making them an excellent option for weight loss management.
Leeks need a long growing season, about 150 days to reach maturity. Plant them in a sunny spot about 4-6” apart in very rich soil and offer them plenty of water.
Start leek seeds indoors before the last frost; when nearing maturity, they don’t mind the cold, so it’s okay to harvest after the first frost in the fall.
As they grow, push the soil up around them, a process known as hilling. This is how you’ll end up with thick white stalks for cooking.
Got Leek Scraps?
Want to try something really cool? Leeks are one of those fantastic crops you can regrow from kitchen scraps!
This process only works with leeks that still have the roots at the bottom; cut the tops of the leek off, leaving about 2-3” of the stalk attached to the roots.
Fill a container with potting soil and plant the leeks (close together is fine) so only about half an inch is visible above the earth. Then, water well to keep the soil evenly moist and place the pot on a sunny windowsill.
You can read more about growing food from kitchen scraps in the book No-Waste Kitchen Gardening by Katie Elzer-Peters.
Leeks can be eaten and enjoyed in many dishes, but first and foremost, you need to clean your leeks really well before consuming. Leeks tend to get extremely dirty; soil hides between the veggie’s layers!
I like to slice the leek stock in half and then cut them into little half-moon pieces. Place them in a strainer and run them under hot water while using your fingers to separate the skins or layers. Be sure to check them over before cooking. Nobody wants a mouthful of dirt in their dinner!
My family’s favorite way to eat this vegetable is in a leek and potato soup! We also love them in a quiche, frittata, or sauteed and thrown on top of our wood-oven pizzas.
Leeks are also excellent paired with salmon or any other kind of fish.