This week, I’ve been harvesting leeks from my veg patch, and I’ve realised something: I really don’t appreciate leeks as much as I should.
I don’t know why it has taken me so long to realise how absolutely awesome the humble leek is. From the start of my allotment adventure I’ve grown them, but for some reason I’ve never sung their praises like other veg.
I’ve just sort of sowed them, grew them, and ate them.
However, no more is this to be the case.
One of the leek’s best qualities is its reliability, and why I’ve had this nonchalant attitude to the vegetable in the past. Leeks are hardy and easy to grow, which means the grower doesn’t really have to worry much about them.
I grow loads of baby leeks in a single pot, like little spring onions, and then plant out with a dibber. Here’s a photo post showing how I plant them out.
They’re not susceptible to many pests, like brassicas, or needy like tomatoes. They germinate at low temperatures (about 7oC) and are happy to sit in the ground through winter. I’ve found that leeks will last right through to the following Spring, without needing any attention, meaning you’ve got crops available whenever you want.
Expensive in the Shops
What has also surprised me, is how much leeks fetch in the shops. The cheapest of the large supermarkets sell organic leeks at £5 a kilo, and leeks featured regularly in my veg growing money-saving experiment of 2011. That makes them well worth growing on its own.
However, my favourite thing about leeks (apart from their lovely taste!) is the pungent aroma that they immediately release the second you pull them from the ground. It is almost overpowering, and a real reminder of why homegrown food is so exciting.
Versatile in the Kitchen
I’d always recommend having a couple of leeks to hand. If you’ve got some cheddar cheese too, then you can pretty much always make a meal, whether it’s leeky cheese on toast, a pasty, a tasty tart, or a winter warming leek and potato soup.
Thick or Thin?
However you like your leeks, one question remains: thick or thin?
The size of the leeks will depend on how close you plant them to each other. The further apart the seedlings are, the bigger the leek will end up. I like a chunky leek, so try to leave 10cm or so between seedlings.
Variety is also important. If you’re more of a thin leek lover, you can’t go wrong with the good old Musselburgh. For big leeks, I’d go for Hannibal, which was recommended to me by friendly Tweeter Jamie WD. I’ve had excellent results with Hannibal this year, and will definitely be growing again.