Leeks can be eaten raw instead of onion, or can be used as an aromatic underpinning to a sauté, soup, or stew.
Leeks (Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum) originate in the Mediterranean. Dried specimens and drawings found in Egyptian archeological sites suggest they were part of the diet since 2 B.C. Leeks are mentioned in the Bible (Numbers 11:5, “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic”). The Emperor Nero apparently ate so many to improve his singing voice that he was nicknamed Porophagus, or Leek Eater. By 640 A.D. leeks had migrated from the Mediterranean to Britain: Welsh warriors under the command of King Cadwallader stuck leeks in their hats to distinguish themselves from the Saxons in battle. If you suffering from nasal congestion in the Middle Ages, leeks stewed with honey were a remedy for a stuffy nose.
How to grow
Leeks are easy to propagate from seed. Leeks have a long growing season, ranging from 70 to 120 days, so you have to start early.
Leeks have an undeserved reputation for being difficult to grow. They are tough, but they do not tolerate neglect. They are heavy feeders (no problem if you amend your soil with compost to a depth of about 12 inches and feed with compost tea or fish emulsion throughout the season) and need regular watering.
For blanching the stalks, you can try "hilling" them with potting mix, or place the lower part of leek seedlings into cardboard tubes (e.g., from toilet paper), burying the tubes slightly into the soil to keep them upright. The tubes make them "think" it’s dark.
Leek cultivars are two distinct categories:
- summer or autumn leeks are harvested in late summer or early autumn of the year in which they are planted
- the more hardy overwintering leeks, can be harvested any time, as long as winters are mild
Leeks have few enemies which is one of the reasons leeks are a joy to grow.
I have successfully grown leeks in sub-irrigated planters (SIPs, self-watering planters) with a regular application of liquid fertilizer every 1-2 weeks (MiracleGro from Costco, or liquid fish from Home Depot). Leeks need a long growing season, approximately 4 months for the classic look with long, white stalks.
Leeks are grown from seeds. Seeds and young seedlings look the same as green onions. Older seedlings are distinguished from onions by the the triangular profile of the leaves on crosscut (onion leaves are oval on crosscut). I plant the seeds in red Solo-type cups from Costco and transplant them in the final SIPs when they have a few leaves.
Growing Leeks: OrganicGardening.com http://buff.ly/1r0yL59
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