The gentlest of all onions, the king of delicacies, the darling of healthy eating, and simply an indispensable side dish, leeks are a plant that is not only available for purchase.
Leeks are often perceived as an overseas delicacy, but they grow perfectly well even in the Middle Kingdom. Yes, in this region, leeks cannot simply be sown and harvested by waiting for the end of the season. It takes long seedlings and patience.
But the wait is worth it! After all, growing your own leeks, in addition to the taste, can boast a high level of freshness and yield.
Chives – a plant that has not become “itself” in our flowerbeds. Leeks are not as popular as common onions, shallots, or even leeks. The problem is that growing leeks is so different from growing regular onions that many gardeners are never afraid to sow the seeds.
The hassle of sprouting, transplanting, and caring for them does, at first, seem too complicated. But it is worth getting to know this plant better to realize that leeks have many advantages.
For example, leeks are several times more productive than sunflowers. Even a few short rows can produce enough straw for many months of cooking.
The leek, also known as the pearl onion or simply leek, is a unique biennial representative of the genus Allium and one of the oldest crops. Just because of its high yield, it was considered absolutely indispensable in ancient Egyptian times.
Its development is not very usual for onions, nor would it be unexpected to be included in the list of stem vegetables, since the most valuable part of leeks is the “stem”. There are two types of leeks: pseudobulbs and pseudostems.
It grows slowly during the first few months, building up a “fan base” of rhizomes and leaves. The shoots differ from ordinary green onions only in the flattened leaves. 8-13 alternating basal wraps of “fan-shaped” linear-lanceolate, dark green flat leaves grow to form the cylinder of the pseudobulb.
This light green, the whitish stem rises to a height of 31inch (80cm) below the ground. The leek’s stem gradually thickens to 0.8-3inch (2-8cm) in diameter. The leaves of the leek are also used as food, but the bleached part of the stem is still considered to be of super value.
The leek is known as the softest of all leeks, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have health benefits. It has a very mild flavor and an exceptional texture, and it also subtly affects the function of many-body systems.
Leeks are one of the leafy vegetables with the highest “vitamin content”, as well as being a stem vegetable. With only 33 kcal per 100-gram weight, leeks can add 2 grams of protein, 8 grams of carbohydrates, and 2 grams of good fiber to your diet.
But the main benefit of leeks is the incredibly high mineral content. These onions contain magnesium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and sulfur. Regular consumption of leeks as a supplement to your basic “vegetable” package allows you to minimize the risk of deficiencies in these minerals, which are extremely important for the proper functioning of the nervous and cardiovascular systems.
It is due to the ideal combination of “potassium-calcium-magnesium” that leeks are often referred to as the “women’s” vegetable and are recommended to be on the menu in cases of hormonal imbalance and metabolic disorders.
Leeks are not the only beneficiaries of the mineral. It possesses no less important high levels of thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin.
Not only is the stock of ascorbic acid in leeks unique, but it doubles during storage (40 mg of vitamin C per 100 g of weight, a record number). Leeks also contain high amounts of vitamin A and natural sugars.
This is one of the most useful vegetables for liver and gastrointestinal disorders. Regular consumption of leeks can improve appetite, reduce symptoms of rheumatism and arthritis, and help reduce the effects of overwork and stress. Leeks are considered to be one of the best dietary ingredients for the treatment of atherosclerosis and circulatory disorders.
Tender, delicate, and only slightly spicy, leeks are several times more delicate than green onions, and their taste and aroma are its main virtues that determine their use. When cooked it becomes soft and melts in the mouth, perfectly keeping its “shape”.
The leek is famous above all thanks to Mediterranean cuisine. In Asia, too, leeks are indispensable in everyday cooking. Chives can be used as both a flavorful garnish and as a base. Chives can be cut into rings, cylinders, or strips.
Chives can be eaten raw, pickled, or even dried. However, all of its flavors only fully emerge when cooked. Enjoy how delicious these onions are if you cook them correctly – after steaming, roasting, braising, and soaking them in sauces (especially milk and cream) to reveal their vibrant color and tender texture.
It can be used in soups, added to sauces, used as a side dish – alone or with other vegetables, stuffing, and added as a condiment and garnish. Chives are one of the best garnishes for fish and indispensable addition to creamy soups.
Even the shedding of the outer “tough” leek leaves does not need to be discarded. They can be a good substitute for twine for rolls and stuffing, for parchment, pastry, and foil for packaging (for example, envelopes for cooking seafood, fish, or meat).
Chives don’t exactly need to be grown in an “onion” way. Its maintenance rules are more similar to those of stem vegetables, especially celery.
Leeks can only be grown from seed in open fields and greenhouses – both seedless and through seedlings. The first option is not suitable for the general zone, because the plant simply does not have time to spend even half of the growing season. Sow seeds of leeks in advance (February-March) for seedlings, in separate containers, observing the temperature and humidity of the soil.
It is not difficult to find a suitable place for leeks in the garden: only sunny flower beds, neutral, well-drained, and very fertile soil are suitable for it.
For a good crop, regular watering, several applications of fertilizer and soaking are needed to form the most delicious bleached and thickened stems. Pruning the tops of the leaves and taking proper care of them will help the leeks grow to a larger diameter.
Harvesting leeks is easy and enjoyable. they can be harvested from August to October and set aside for winter or even spring use (in the middle belt leeks have no problem in winter under good snow cover with seed soaking and protective mulching).
The leek stems are slightly shortened with the leaves and roots, and the whole plant is kept in a cool, ventilated, darkroom and soaked in the sand. And the leeks will only increase in usefulness with time.
Chives flower only in their second year, and after flowering they lose their “food value” – they become tough. Despite being a purely “food” crop, leeks are one of the most attractive flowering onions.
They bloom at the height of summer, producing stalks up to 6.5 feet (2 meters) high and globular skeletonized umbels of stunning beauty. In the early stages of its growth, it is completely covered by a large veil. The white and pink flowers with long stamens are very attractive.
It is a cross-pollinated plant. The leek seeds that mature after flowering are absolutely typical of onions – triangular and wrinkled. If grown as a perennial, leeks form decorative “wild” groups and begin to branch.