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Leeks, garlic, onions and scallions have some of the earliest planting dates in the home garden. In fact, many gardeners start their seeds in the fall in a cold frame, grow their own transplants for very early spring transplanting to the garden. Others prefer to just buy onion plants and plant them directly to the garden in very early spring, and at Seeds ‘n Such, we offer you both options.
Most American gardeners are familiar with growing and eating garlic, onions and scallions because of their widespread use in all types of cuisine. But when you assure them that leeks can be grown here just as easily, it seems that this European, and especially French cuisine favorite, is rarely grown and little used in other than the classic dish of leek and potato soup.
“Leeks are tall, mild-flavored alliums that have one slender bulb at the end of a long stalk. They look like scallions on growth hormones. Despite their mild flavor, they are rich in beneficial phytonutrients,” says nutrition-minded garden writer Jo Robinson in her book, Eating on the Wild Side, “The nutrients are most concentrated in the leaves and the green portions of the stalk— the parts that most people discard.”
Robinson says that for the best flavor and highest nutrition, we should harvest our leeks when they are small in order to have leaves that are more tender. “To use the greens in a stir-fry or other sautéed dish, cut them into eighth-inch slices and sauté for a few minutes before adding the white part of the leek,” she adds, “Unlike onions and garlic, leeks lose most of their antioxidant benefits after spending just a few days in your refrigerator. Cook them as soon as you buy or harvest them.”
Robinson recommends serving the sautéed leeks as a side dish, adding them to soups and pot roasts or by piling them on sandwiches or hamburgers. She says they are also tasty used in omelets, frittatas and as poultry stuffing or served over fish, beef, pork, poultry or lamb. “I make a large quantity and freeze some in pint-size freezer bags so I can have them readily at hand,” she adds.
The following quick and easy recipe features Robinson’s tasty alternative to leek and potato soup:
2 medium-size leeks
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, preferably unfiltered
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
1 teaspoon honey