Leeks are a member of the onion family, and often used in soups and to enhance the flavor of many dishes. Leeks are somewhat expensive to buy in the supermarket, so growing your own can save you money and provide you with enough crop for yourself and to share with your friends. [photo via flickr]
Leeks like rich soil so prepare soil with lots of organic matter and manure before planting. Plant leeks in late summer for harvesting in winter and early spring, or plant indoors three to four weeks before the last frost in spring for harvesting before excessive summer temperatures occur.
Leek seeds can be planted directly in the ground at a rate of eight to ten seeds per linear foot. Cover them with ½ inch of soil, and cover with compost or organic matter to keep them cool and moist in warm temperatures. Once seedlings are four to six weeks old, thin plants to four inches apart and keep the soil moist. If you prefer thicker stems, thin plants to about eight inches apart. Once plants mature, decrease watering to only when needed because older leeks prefer soil somewhat dry.
When stems are about an inch in diameter, blanche them by mounding dirt up around them. This keeps the sun from the bottom part of the stem and results in a stark white, high-quality leek.
Leeks require a relatively long growing season – about 120 – 150 days. When at least three inches at the base of the stem is white and it feels firm and solid, it is time to harvest leeks. Harvest your leeks by twisting and pulling or digging. Leeks are very frost tolerant, so leave them in the ground until you are ready to use them. They should last throughout the winter in your garden.
And try this recipe for Potato Leek Soup from simplyrecipes.com. It is easy to make and only takes 40 minutes to prepare.
- 3 large leeks, cut lengthwise, separate, clean. Use only the white and pale green parts, chop.
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth for vegetarian option)*
- 2 lbs potatoes, peeled, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
- Marjoram – dash
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- Tabasco sauce or other red chili sauce
- Salt & Pepper
- Cook the leeks in butter with salt and pepper in a medium sized sauce pan. Cover pan, cook on low heat for 10 minutes. Check often. Do not brown leeks! Browning will give leeks a burnt taste.
- Add water, broth, and potatoes. Bring to a low simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Scoop about half of the soup mixture into a blender, puree and return to pan. Add marjoram, parsley, and thyme. Add a few dashes of chili sauce to taste. Add some freshly ground pepper, 1-2 teaspoons salt or more to taste.
This recipe yields 4-6 servings.