It is believed that leeks have been a part of Egyptian and Mesopotamian diets since 2nd millennium BCE. Ancient Romans and Greeks found that leeks had a beneficial effect on the throat. The leek is also one of the national emblems of Wales.

The leek is part of the allium family and closely related to the onion and garlic. Ramps, or wild leeks, are much smaller and have a pungent and more intense flavor. Though cultivated leeks are available year-round, they are at their prime September through April.

How Leeks are Good for Your Body

Research says that we should include allium vegetables in our diet daily due to the combination of flavenoids and sulfur containing nutrients. The combination of vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, iron and manganese in leeks helps the body properly metabolize sugars. Leeks also are a great source of folate and fiber and leeks are a good source of calcium. Included in the awesome nutritional benefits of leeks is that they have antiseptic qualities to help fight the body against infections. Leeks are also known to lower cholesterol and prevent or fight against cancers.

How to Select Leeks to Eat

The key is to remember that the younger the leek the more delicate the flavor. Therefore, you want to try to select leeks that are 1/2 inch in diameter. Most are actually larger at 1 1/2 to 2 inches, therefore try to pick the smallest of the selection. Also look for cylindrical bottoms because when leeks began to round into a bulb shape that means they are more mature. In addition make sure the tops are tight and a are a nice vibrant green. Pass over any leeks that are wilting.

How to Store Leeks

Leeks should not be trimmed or washed before storing. They should be stored in the refrigerator in a loosely wrapped plastic bag. This helps them retain moisture and also helps prevent the sulfurous odor from traveling throughout your refrigerator. Leeks can be stored from 5 days to 2 weeks depending on their freshness. Though leeks can be frozen it is not advisable since they can lose their texture and flavor.

How to Eat Leeks

Make sure that you wash your leeks well since they have dirt hiding in the layers. The easiest way to do this is to slice them in half lengthwise and rinse them under running water.  While most recipes only call for the white parts, the entire leek is good to eat. They can be thinly sliced and sautéed in olive oil and a splash of lemon. Leeks have a mild and sweet onion taste and bring a nice flavor to your recipes. A common way to eat leeks is in a soup such as potato leek soup.

Recipe Inspirations:

As of this winter, I am now fond of leeks and plan to grow some in my garden. I like them lightly sautéed since that helps keep the flavor. They are also awesome paired with greens and lemon. Here are a few recipes I found on the web for additional inspiration:

- Though Potato Leek Soup was already mentioned, I like the way Rachel over at Inside the Kaganoff Kitchen served up her “lovely leeks”. It reminded me of an asparagus watercress soup shots I fell in love with at Ubuntu.

- I found a leek pilaf recipe on Laurie Catantino’s older blog.

- Cooking Books has an awesome looking recipe for Pomegranate Braised Leeks with Pomegranate Syrup. Looks delish!

- Heidi at 101 Cookbooks has a recipe for Black-eyed Peas & Leeks which seems to be a popular pairing.

- Finally the Lemony Leek Pesto Penne from Kathy at Healthy Happy Life is vibrantly green and could not be passed up.

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