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Leeks

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Preview of Leek

Available

August 15 - February 15

Harvest Period

August 15 - November 15

The leek belongs to the same allium family as onions and garlic, however unlike the latter, leeks do not form tightly bound bulbs. Rather, leeks are long cylinders of tightly bundled leaf sheaves.  Leeks have the mildest flavour of all members of the onion family, but retain all of the nutritional and health benefits associated with eating these pungent bulbs.

What to Look For

Choose leeks that have white bottoms and roots with dark green leaves that are neither wilting nor slimy. Yellowing leaves indicate age.  Avoid very large leeks as they are less tender than smaller, younger ones.

Cleaning and Preparation

Slice off the roots of the leek and any wilted, yellowing leaves. Since only the white part and the neighbouring light green section are used, chop off all the dark green leaves and set aside for the compost.

Make a slit down the center of the leeks, but not completely through the root.  Make a second lengthwise cut perpendicular to the first, allowing you to fan out the leaves. Rinse thoroughly between each layer to remove all sand and grit.  Depending on the recipe, the leeks can be left whole or chopped up into pieces.

Storage

Store leeks, unwashed, in the refrigerator crisper for up to one week.

Leeks can be chopped and frozen.  However, once thawed, they soften and are therefore best used in cooked dishes rather than in raw preparations.

Nutritional Information

Leeks are an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K as well as iron, and manganese.

One 125g cooked leek (white and lower green portion) provides 38 calories, 0g fat, 9g carbohydrates, 1g dietary fibre, and 1g protein.

How to Use

Allow 15 minutes to cook leeks in water, and 10 minutes in a sauté pan. Undercooked leeks are tough and chewy and overcooked leeks can take on an undesirable mushy texture.

Leeks substitute well for green onions or storage onions in recipes that could benefit from their mild flavour and more substantial presence in the dish. They can be served, cooked, as a vegetable side dish with a vinaigrette or white sauce accompaniment. They add delicate flavour to soups, stuffings, omelettes and quiches.  They are probably best known for complementing potatoes in soups like Vichyssoise and Cock-a-leekie.

Varieties

Common Ontario-grown varieties include: Pinola, Titan, Arkansas, Derik, Palino and Unique.