Leeks: The Unloved Allium

 

growing leeks

Just planted leeks growing in my garden. In the spring. They are bigger now.

Leeks are part of the onion family, which in Latin is Allium. There’s your daily science class.

Now here’s a history class-

Leeks go way back, way, way back. To the Greek and Roman times. And the honourable leek is the national emblem of Wales. In 640 the Welsh soldiers wore leeks in their helmets to distinguish themselves from the Saxons they were fighting against. I guess they didn’t have colours back then. The leek wearing Welsh fighters beat those nasty Saxons and leeks have been a prized item in Wales ever since. Even today leeks are worn on the national St. David’s Day and to rugby games. At least that’s what the interweb told me. I’ve never been to Wales and no Welsh folks were interviewed about these facts. Please confirm this if you have Welsh leek knowledge.

Either way leeks are a quality vegetable and are deserving of more attention. Onions and garlic have been taking up the Allium centre stage for a long time, leaving poor leeks in the shadows. Well, not anymore. Leeks are bringing out the cane to yank those attention loving cousins off the stage.

What I mean by that Broadway analogy (I’ve had some coffee this morning) is that the health benefits of onions and garlic have been very well studied. Leeks, not so much.

But this is no reason to leave leeks abandoned on the grocery store shelf. It is safe to assume that leeks carry many of the same health benefits as onions and garlic do.

Leeks have a compound called kaempferol which protects our blood vessel linings. And it really protects, fending off free-radicals looking to start up a cancer causing cells. Leeks are also a good source of the vitamin B, folate. All good news!

They are high in fiber and great for intestinal health.

When you bring your leeks home, they need a little tender love and care before they are ready to eat. Wash the outsides and peel off any damaged or grubby looking layers. Slice off the root end and a chunk of the dark green leaves. If you take a peek at the base of the leaves, there is likely some dirt. Soak your leeks in either a sink full of water or a big bowl of water. Just helps to get the grit out. Grit isn’t a tasty addition to a meal.

The best eating parts of leeks are the white and pale green parts. Though the dark green can be used for flavouring soups and stocks.

Thus far in my leek cooking life I have only sliced them into little circles, bottom to top. They can also be sliced in half longways and cooked that way.

Our favorite way of eating leeks is frying them up in olive oil until they are crisp and serving them with steak or tossing in a salad or adding to Shepherd’s Pie. Leeks are really flavourful and help any dish taste better.

Other ways to eat leeks-

There is the standard Leek and Potato Soup, this is David Lebovitz’s recipe, which I made last night. I don’t believe my potatoes measured up. I will make it again. Melanie of One Hundred Mile Mel made it too last night and h

Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don’t Get Fat, is a huge fan of leeks. She has a leek soup in the book that she recommends for a detox. On her website I found are recipe for a Gratin of Leeks and Turnips. Which I might very possibly make tonight, only I will use a rutabaga instead of turnips. Because I like rutabaga’s and turnips, well, I am sure they are worthy but they are turnips. Here’s the complete list of leek recipes on Mireille’s website.

And I invented a recipe this week that I am calling 3 onion gravy. I will share it with you. Slice up a leek, a red onion and a white onion into rounds. Saute them. In butter. I suppose olive oil would work too. I guess. Throw in some herbs, thyme, rosemary and salt and pepper. When they are softened add water or stock, stock would add more flavour but be sure you are using a quality stock. Mix a little starch and water and add it in. Wait until it thickens up. And that’s it. We had it on turkey. I also had it the next day for breakfast with hummus on a rice cracker. Very delicious.

Where do you stand on leeks? Are you already a fan? Do you think you might like to give them a try?

 

Comments

  1. I have a potato soup recipe that I love. Think I can just throw some leeks in?

    • Sure! Do you puree the potatoes? It would be very tasty (and fancy) to fry up the leeks until crispy and decorate your potato soup with them. In fact, send your potato soup recipe this way.

  2. I think I’ve always held a grudge against the leek…can’t say why. But when you put it that way “sautee them in butter” well it doesn’t so sound bad.

  3. I’m having a love affair with leeks dating way way way back.
    It is very popular in germany. I use it in most of my soups, stews and stocks.
    Have a wicked potato & leek tart recipe.

    yeah for leeks!!

  4. I just used some leeks recently in a soup, but since the flavors melded together, I can’t say yea or nay in regards to liking them or not. Frying them and putting them on a steak sounds like the best way to judge though!

  5. Joey @ Big Teeth & Clouds says:

    I’ve never eaten a leek. This is convincing evidence to give it a try. I do adore garlic.

  6. You know, I am now thinking that I had a chicken and leek dish that was really good and I haven’t had it in a long time! Leeks are incredibly misunderstood, I think. Thanks for bringing them back into my mind!

    • You are right they seem to get the short end of the allium stick. I’m not sure why because they are so tasty. Keep me posted on that chicken and leek pie recipe. YUM!

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