Leeks must be thoroughly washed before using. Slice leeks lengthwise in half and wash under running water to remove any soil that might hide between leaves. Use green fibrous tops when making stock. The Roman military introduced Leeks in the wake of their European conquests, the mild allium went on to grace Scotland’s cock-a-leekie soup, to feed Chaucer’s Canterbury-bound Pilgrims, and to become the national symbol of Wales. You may use leeks, in any recipe calling for onions.
Leeks are members of the vast and varied group known as Alliums, which are related to both the Lily and the Amaryllis families. Leeks are one of the oldest cultivated Alliums. Our English word leek, which comes to us from the Saxon word “leac”, once stood for any member of the onion family, as in “gar-leac”. With a more delicate and sweeter flavor than onions, leeks add a subtle touch to recipes without overpowering other flavors. Their soft texture is essential in making flavorful winter soups with other cool season crops like kale, chard, turnips, potatoes, and carrots. Alliums have been well-researched and found to reduce total cholesterol and LDL, or “bad” cholesterol levels, while at the same time raising HDL, or “good” cholesterol levels. Additionally, “leacs” can help lower high blood pressure, all of which reduces one’s risk of heart attack and stroke. As few as two servings per week are associated with a reduced risk of prostate, ovarian and colon cancers. The combination of manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, folate, and iron make leeks particularly helpful in stabilizing blood sugar, since they slow absorption of sugars from the intestinal tract, and help ensure proper sugar metabolism in the body.
Legend tells us that during the Briton vs. Saxon battle of 640 AD, the Welch combatants wore Leeks in their hats to distinguish themselves from the enemy. Ever since, patriotic Welsh have worn leeks on St. David’s Day to both honor their patron saint and commemorate that victorious event.
The All New All Purpose Joy of Cooking features Braised Leeks, Slow-Roasted Leeks, Grilled Leeks, Creamy Leeks and Warm Leeks Vinaigrette. We love caramelized leeks on foccacia bread or pizza.