This Season’s Harvest: Growing and Cooking with Leeks

by Audrey Smith

Growing Tips

Allow time to mature: Start leeks inside early, ideally in February or March.  Sow seeds 1 inch apart, ½ inch deep into seed-starting mix. Keep moist with a strong light source until ready to plant out. Germination is sporadic and growth is slow so be patient!

Encourage the white shank to grow: Plant leeks about 4 inches apart down deep in a trench so tips stick up about 2 inches from the soil. As leeks grow, add soil to the trench. Continue to mound soil around the base of each plant, as you would for potatoes.

Harvest in the fall or winter: Leeks can tolerate being in the ground when it is cool. It’s nice to have something fresh to enjoy when all the other garden produce is finished.

Cleaning Leeks

There is nothing worse than gritty leek soup. Clean leeks carefully as follows:

Trim the roots, leaving the root ends intact to hold the layers together. Peel away outer layer and discard. Remove dark green parts. Slice leeks lengthwise, fan open the layers, and swish them in a large bowl of cool water. Let them stand a few minutes to allow the grit to fall to the bottom, then lift out.

Cooking with Leeks

Cream of Leek Soup: The Indulgent Classic

Ingredients:

  • 6 leeks, white parts only, cleaned and chopped
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • Salt and white pepper to taste

Directions:

Melt butter in a large soup pot. Sauté leeks for 5 minutes, being careful not to burn them. Reduce heat and sweat leeks for 15 minutes.  Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute.  Add chicken broth and simmer for 10 minutes. Cool soup then purée until very smooth. Just before serving, add cream and salt and pepper to taste. Heat thoroughly. Do not boil.

Serves 4-6

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