Must Grow Leeks
A Gardening Life – January 23
Ok, I realize that as a homegrown vegetable leeks don’t have the same appeal as, say, tomatoes. Their fragrance isn’t as evocative of summer as basil is, and they don’t have quite the broad pick-me-at-five-and-sit-down-to-dinner-at-six as summer squash or green beans. But after harvesting a large crop in January, I am now a must-grow-leeks kind of gardener.
The leeks we pulled two weeks ago were planted in mid to late summer from seed. We had cleared out an earlier crop of lettuce in that part of the garden and filled the empty space with two rows of leeks. These late arrivals sprouted quickly and grew slowly but steadily the rest of the summer and fall. We did not protect them but our Decembers have been pretty mild for the past few years. It is only now, near the end of January, that our temperatures have dropped into the single digits.
Leeks are a good winter vegetable because they combine so beautifully with all the other produce that we still have at this time of year. Leeks and winter squash, pumpkin, potatoes or other root crops have flavors that marry well. I made a curried winter squash soup by combining the slightly browned leeks and butternut squash with chicken stock, a carrot, ginger, and curry powder. Just chop the leeks and lightly brown in olive oil, add grated ginger, chunks of squash, and a carrot or two, cover with stock and cook until the squash is soft. Add curry powder to taste. Once blended in the food processor this soup was creamy and rich without needing any coconut milk or cream.
Gardens encourage us not to get set in our ways. They challenge us to try something new, and this is a good habit to get into, especially as we get older. Leeks are a very good source of vitamins A, C, and K, plus folate and manganese. They are also pretty high in fiber, vitamin B6, iron and magnesium. But right now I’m valuing them for giving me a good dose of try-something-different flexibility.
Sharing The Wealth
- If you want to plant these as a second crop and harvest them into the winter, get a variety of seeds that are good for surviving cold temps such as Lancelot.
- Leeks prefer well-drained soil. We mix in composted manure and leaves in our garden.
- Use an all purpose organic fertilizer spread in the early spring where leeks are going to grow. Last year I used the Tomato & Vegetable fertilizer that the BlackGold company sent me with great results.
- Get the lower part of the stems to be white by mounding up the soil around the plants. We started doing this when the leeks were just over a half an inch around when they were a couple of months old.