Pleasant, delicate sweet flavored leeks are cylindrical leafy stalks obtained from the onion-family plant, in the Allium genus. They are biennial, tall, slender herbs with long cylindrical stem composed of concentric layers of overlapping leaves. They are commonly employed as vegetables in many parts of Europe, America, and Asia.
Botanically, leek belong to the Alliaceae family of bulbous plants, in the genus: Allium. However, unlike their fellow allium members such as onion, shallots, garlic…etc., they do not form underground bulbs.
Scientific name: Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum.
Leek requires well-drained, fertile soil to flourish. In general, it is cultivated as annual crop in many parts of Europe and Asia. Planting can be done by either sowing seeds or transplanting seedlings that take about 100-120 days to harvest.
In general, leeks are planted in deep trenches to deprive them exposure to sunlight which otherwise would turn stems green (chlorophyll pigmentation) due to photosynthesis. As the plant grows in height, the trench is filled gradually by pulling surrounding earth to create a mound around the stalk. This method is employed in order to obtain long, white, blanched stalks instead of green, pungent ones.
Leeks available at their best during spring season. However, they can be available fresh year around in most of the super markets. While buying, choose fresh organic leeks as they are rich in flavor and nutrition. Look for uniform, long, firm, ice-white stalks with healthy root bulb as it indicates of fresh farm produce.