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News from the Good Food Project

Long Live the Leek!

Style your dinner table with an easy-to-grow, elegant onion cousin: The Leek. Sweet and mild, leeks are gentle on the digestive system and play the role of onion in dishes, only toned down. Unlike onions, leeks don't produce bulbs, but stash their flavor in thick, juicy stems that look similar to giant scallions. Leafy stems are pretty, and growing leeks doesn't require much room in the garden.

Leeks are one of the most durable vegetables you can grow. By selecting the right varieties, you can enjoy this tasty, nutritious crop year-round--including the dead of winter--making it a must for both home and market gardens.

Leeks, like garlic and onions, belong to a vegetable family called the Allium vegetables. Since leeks are related to garlic and onions, they contain many of the same beneficial compounds found in these well-researched, health-promoting vegetables.

In the supermarket, leeks cost a premium; harvested from the garden, they are a bargain. Leeks are most famous for leek and potato soup, but they are also good steamed like asparagus, oven-roasted, chopped in quiche, or wrapped in ham and baked, maybe with a little cheese on top.

Leeks need two things to thrive: lots of nitrogen and consistent soil moisture. If possible, add compost or organic fertilizer to the leek bed the season prior to planting, or work organic fertilizer into the ground a few days before planting.

Plant leeks in a sunny spot in soil that is fertile and well-drained. Leeks thrive in traditional garden beds, raised beds, or even in tall containers, so choose whatever works best. Space leeks 6 inches apart when planting. To produce a succulent white stem, leeks must be blanched--- covered or hidden from the sun. To do this, plant leeks into deep holes. Create a narrow trench 6 to 8 inches deep, then tuck seedlings in to the trench, adding soil back so it comes up to the base of the first green leaf, and water well. They grow to about 12 inches in length.

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