A cousin of the onion, leeks can be substituted in any dish. Resembling an oversized scallion, leeks are long and round in shape. Starting with a white stem at the slightly round root end, the colour becomes increasingly darker green towards the top, which is surrounded by stiff, wide green or blue-green leaves.
HOW TO CHOOSE
Leeks are available all year long, and peak in the fall and winter.
When selecting leeks, look for those with fresh, bright green leaves, avoiding any with blemishes, wilting or yellowing leaves. Smaller leeks tend to be more tender.
Leeks can be stored up to a week in the refrigerator if securely wrapped in plastic.
Since leeks are grown in sandy soil, they need to be cleaned thoroughly before being eaten. The sand can become trapped within the leafy layers of the leek, which may cause the vegetable to become gritty. To clean, remove and discard the leaf end of the leek and the rootlets at the base or root end.
Make an ‘x’ in the bulbs to keep the stem of the leek intact; otherwise, it starts to fall apart. If the leek is to be sliced lengthwise, cut down the center of the stem beginning at the bulb end.
The layers of the leek can then be separated to be washed thoroughly to remove any remaining grit. Run individual leaves under cold water with green end facing down to remove dirt from leaf layers. Chop or slice into the desired pieces.
Leeks provide a sweet and somewhat earthy compliment to meals that is much milder than an onion. A leek is used:
- Raw and shredded, to enhance the flavour of salads, soups, stews, quiches, or meat and vegetable casseroles.
- As a raw ingredient in dips and some sauces.
- By slicing the white portion and sauté with chopped portobello mushrooms and minced garlic, or add to soups and stir-fry dishes
- In many cooking methods: baked, braised in wine or a broth, stir fried, or microwaved
- When the stalk’s tough green portion is added as a super flavour to stock or broth.
A good source of dietary fibre, leeks also contain goodly amounts of folic acid, calcium, potassium, and vitamin C. Easier to digest than standard onions, leeks have laxative, antiseptic, diuretic, and anti-arthritic properties. Aong with garlic and onions, are a part of the Allium vegetable family. Research states that high intake of Allium vegetables may reduce total cholesterol . Leeks contain the antioxidant called Quercetin.
Leeks (bulb and leaf, raw), 1 cup (130g)
Total Fat: 0.27g
*Good source of: Iron (1.9mg), Vitamin C (10.7mg), and Folate (57mcg)
*Foods that are an “excellent source” of a particular nutrient provide 20% or more of the Recommended Daily Value. Foods that are a “good source” of a particular nutrient provide.
- The rich history of leeks began in ancent times. The origin is believed to be Central Asia, yet has had time to be cultivated in Europe for thousands of years.
- Leeks were cherished by the ancient Greeks and Romans and were especially valued for their beneficial effect upon the throat. The Greek philosopher Aristotle considered the clear voice of the partridge to be the result of a diet of leeks. As a result, the Roman emperor Nero supposedly ate leeks everyday to make his voice stronger.
- During Roman occupation of the United Kingdom, it was discovered that leeks were able to flourish in Britain due to their resolve to withstand cold weather.
- Wales holds an extremely high regard for leeks, making this vegetable its country’s national emblem. One legend states that leeks (cenhinen in Welsh) formed an important part of the Welsh diet, especially during Lent, and so would be appropriate for using on Dydd Gwyl Ddewi in honor of the patron saint. This honor is carried on today with the traditional meal of ‘cawl’ (lamb broth with leeks) on the saint’s day.
- Another connection between leeks and Welsh patriotism began in a battle won successfully against that Saxons in 1620 in a field of leeks. The Welsh soldiers placed leeks in their caps to easily set themselves apart from their foe in the heat of battle.
- Today, leeks are an important vegetable in many northern European cuisines and are grown in many European countries.