Growing and planting leeks is a great way to add flavor to your kitchen meals. Referred to as the "gourmet's onion," these large versions of green onions have a flavorful, milder taste.
What is a Leek?
Perhaps you may be wondering, "What is a leek?" Leeks (Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum) are members of the onion family, closely related to onions, garlic, shallots, and chives. Unlike their counterparts, leeks develop long, succulent stems rather than producing large bulbs. These stems are used as an onion substitute in many dishes.
How to Grow Leeks
Leeks can be grown from seeds or transplants. When growing leeks from seeds, it's often easier to start them indoors even though they're considered cold tolerant, as hard frosts can be detrimental to young plants. Sow the seeds in individual pots for easier transplanting about six to eight weeks before growing season or in early spring. Transplant seedlings once they reach about 6 inches (15 cm.) tall. The best place for growing leeks is in full sun in fertile, well-drained soil. When planting leeks in the garden, make a shallow trench about 4 to 5 inches (10-13 cm.) deep and place the plants inside, spacing about 6 inches (15 cm.) apart and covering with only a light amount of soil. Be sure to water leeks thoroughly and add a layer of organic mulch. As the leeks grow, use the excavated soil from the trench to slowly build up around the stem to keep out light. This technique is much like that for blanching celery.
Once plants reach about the size of a pencil, you can begin harvesting leeks. Be sure to harvest leeks before flowering occurs. Leeks are best used right away, however, they can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks. For people who enjoy cooking, or even for those who simply enjoy the taste of mild onions, consider growing leeks in the garden for an endless supply.
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Nikki Tilley has been gardening for nearly three decades. The former Senior Editor and Archivist of Gardening Know How, Nikki has also authored six gardening books.
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