Mmm, leeks. Important Welsh wardrobe accessory, delicious with butter and cheese and in this case, not to be confused with the Staffordshire market town of the same name.
Leeks are Alliums, like garlic and onion, and form the basis of some classic soups, including Scotland’s Cock-a-leekie and France’s Crème Vichyssoise. What you may not know is that they are also delicious raw when they are young – keep an eye out for a delicious raw recipe coming later this week…
Leeks like a touch of the special treatment when they start their lives, preferring to begin in a nursery bed, before being moved when pencil-thick to the bed in which they mature. This year’s Cultivate leeks were lovingly transplanted by a group of OxCo-op student volunteers – thanks guys!
Leeks are available in these parts from September to March. When choosing your leeks on the VegVan, look for ones which are firm, unblemished on the lower white part and have crisp bright green leaves up top. Smaller leeks are sweeter and more tender, but some like ‘em big. The growing of giant ‘prize’ leeks has been a North East tradition for many years, with its roots in the region’s mining culture. But the sad news from the BBC this week is that this tradition could soon become a thing of the past (see the BBC news article here).
According to Shakespeare’s Henry V, leek wearing in Wales is an ‘ancient tradition’. Legends suggest that the habit began with a king in the 1st century AD, who suggested that his soldiers wear the vegetable on their helmets so they could be differentiated from their Saxon opponents (thanks, Wikipedia!). Today, the leek is still the cap badge of the Welsh Guards regiment in the British Army. On St David’s Day, Welsh people wear leeks, as well as daffodils, which are called Cenhinen Bedr, ‘Peter’s leek’ (not to be confused with Peter Leek, a local physicist).
Get your leeks washed, get your leeks washed baby
You may have noticed that soil often gets trapped between the many layers of leeky leaves. It’s important to get rid of that when prepping your leeks.
Best way to do this? Send us your tips on the book of face, but in the meantime, here’s our method: trim off both ends, including most of the green leaves, and remove the outer layer if tough. Slice and pop in a colander under running water, or if using whole, slice firmly down from top to where the green becomes white, right through the leek, and wash under running water.