Leeks are appreciated more in Europe than in the U.S., but once you’ve tried them, you won’t want to be without them. They look sort of like giant scallions but they have a unique, mild flavor that sets them apart from onions.
Leeks grow as a central shaft with a handsome cascade of long, bluish green leaves at the top. The edible portion of leeks is the white shaft, so they’re grown to maximize that section. Harvest leeks at full size in mid- to late autumn, or dig them up earlier for baby leeks.
They can be cooked in many ways—braised, grilled, sautéed—and are a classic ingredient in soups and casseroles.
Fun Fact: Leeks are the national emblem of Wales.
Common name: Leeks
Botanical name: Allium porrum
Plant type: Tender biennial grown as an annual
Height: 1 to 2 feet
• Sun: Full sun
• Soil: Loamy or sandy soil with added compost
• Moisture: Provide an even water supply for best growth
• Mulch: An inch or two of straw or shredded leaves helps retain soil moisture and suppress weeds.
• Pruning: None.
• Fertilizer: Top-dress with compost or apply fertilizer solution monthly.
Pests and diseases
• No major problems
• ‘Lancelot’ is an improved form with hybrid vigor.
• ‘King Richard’ has a long shaft and can be harvested at any size.
• ‘Megaton’ has uniform size and good keeping qualities.
• Leeks take awhile to reach transplanting size, so start seeds early indoors or look for seedling plants to purchase at planting time.
• Plant young leeks in a shallow trench, then gradually hill up soil around them as they grow to produce a long white shaft.
• Leeks and potatoes like similar soil and moisture conditions; grow both, and you’ll have the makings for delicious leek and potato soups!
All in the family
• Leeks are generally considered a member of the onion family (Alliaceae), though some recent taxonomy lumps this family into the larger amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae).
• The onion family includes other culinary crops including onions, chives and garlic, as well as some ornamental bulbs.
Where to buy
• Johnny’s Selected Seeds, johnnyseeds.com
• Park Seed, parkseed.com
• Stokes Seeds, stokeseeds.com
• Territorial Seed Co., territorialseed.com