Leek is not only tasty, but also has many health benefits.
Which ones are they?
And how to prepare it properly?
You will learn all this and much more in our article!
What is a leek?
Leek, or garden leek, is a member of the same family (Allium) as onions, garlic or chives. This bulbous vegetable looks like a spring onion but is much larger. Its white base turns from light green to dark green at the top. Its mild taste and easy preparation make it a popular addition to soups, sauces and appetizers, but it can also be a great side dish on its own if you gently fry it. The taste can be compared to that of a delicate onion, which is slightly sweet. The younger the leek, the finer its flavor and texture.
Health benefits of eating leeks
Leek has many health benefits such as:
It contains a lot of nutrients
Leeks are nutrient-dense, meaning they are low in calories but high in vitamins and minerals, especially magnesium and vitamins A, C and K. They also boast smaller amounts of fiber, copper, vitamin B6, iron and folic acid.
It is loaded with beneficial plant compounds
Leek is a rich source of antioxidants, especially polyphenols and sulfur compounds. Antioxidants fight oxidation, which damages our cells and contributes to diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
It helps reduce inflammation and supports heart health
Leeks contain heart-healthy plant compounds that have been shown to reduce inflammation, cholesterol, blood pressure, blood clot formation and the overall risk of heart disease.
It helps with weight loss
Like most vegetables, leeks can promote weight loss. It has very few calories and is also a good source of water and fiber, which prevents hunger and promotes a feeling of fullness.
Supports healthy digestion
Leeks are a good source of soluble fiber, which nourishes the beneficial bacteria in our gut. These bacteria, in turn, reduce inflammation and support digestive tract health.
Other potential health benefits
- Lowers blood sugar.
- Supports brain function.
- Fights infections.
Lactating mothers should avoid eating leeks. It has been found that leeks reduce the secretion of breast milk.
Nutritional values of leeks
In the following table, see a comparison of the nutritional values of raw and cooked leeks in 100 grams.
|Nutritional values|| Raw leek|
| Boiled leeks|
|Energy||61 kcal||88 kcal|
|Fats||0.3 g||3 g|
|Carbohydrates||14 g||15 g|
|Sugars||3.9 g||4.1 g|
|Fiber||1.8 g||1.9 g|
|Proteins||1.5 g||1.6 g|
Vitamins and minerals in leeks
Also look at the amount of minerals and vitamins that 100 grams of raw vs. contains boiled leeks.
|Vitamins and minerals||Raw leek (100 g)||Boiled leek (100 g)|
|Vitamin A||83.00 mcg||94.00 mcg|
|Vitamin B1||0.060 mg||0.056 mg|
|Vitamin B2||0.030 mg||0.030 mg|
|Vitamin B3||0.400 mg||0.396 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.233 mg||0.236 mg|
|Folates||64.00 mcg||57.00 mcg|
|Vitamin C||12.0 mg||10.6 mg|
|Vitamin E||0.92 mg||1.27 mg|
|Vitamin K||47.0 mcg||51.4 mcg|
|Calcium||59.00 mg||62.00 mg|
|Copper||0.12 mg||0.12 mg|
|Iron||2.10 mg||2.19 mg|
|Magnesium||28.00 mg||29.00 mg|
|Phosphorus||35.00 mg||37.00 mg|
|Potassium||180.00 mg||188.00 mg|
|Selenium||1.00 mcg||1.10 mcg|
|Sodium||20.00 mg||152.00 mg|
|Zinc||0.12 mg||0.13 mg|
Where can we buy leeks and how to choose them correctly?
Leeks are usually sold loose, so they have a longer shelf life. Plastic would promote rot. You can get it all year round, but the main season is in summer for summer leek varieties, autumn varieties are eaten from September to the end of the year, and winter leeks are harvested from October to early March. You can also easily grow leeks in your garden. If you don’t grow leeks, buy them in a supermarket or market.
Consider the following factors when choosing leeks:
- Choose leeks with clean white bulbs that should be intact and not cracked or bruised in any way, with firm, tightly coiled dark green tops .
- Check the center of the leek for hard seeds by gently squeezing.
- Avoid leeks with wilted or yellowed tops .
- Since you will only be using the white and light green parts for cooking, look for leeks with a lot of white .
How to store leeks?
Leeks can give off an aroma that can be absorbed by other foods in your fridge. To prevent this, do not cut or wash leeks before storing. Wrap it lightly in plastic wrap to trap odors and moisture and store in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. Depending on freshness, leeks can be stored from five days to two weeks . However, on about the seventh day, the leaves start to turn yellow. You can trim them to extend the freshness of the leeks for a few more days. In general, larger leeks spoil sooner than smaller ones. The ideal conditions for leek storage are temperatures around 0 degrees Celsius . If the temperature is too high, the leek will turn yellow earlier.
Cooked leeks should be stored covered in the refrigerator and used within one to two days.
Leeks are not good candidates for freezing or canning unless you plan to use them in soups or similar recipes. Freezing tends to turn it to mush and imparts a bitter taste. However, if you decide to freeze leeks, proceed according to the following instructions:
- Clean the leek and trim the roots.
- Cut it into small rings and blanch by blanching the rings in boiling water for 40 seconds and then placing them in cold water.
- This will help it retain its freshness, appearance and taste.
- Dry the rings well with a kitchen towel, lay them out on a baking sheet in one layer and put them in the freezer.
- After two hours, put the leeks in a practical freezer container with a lid.
- This way it will last up to 10 months in the freezer.
- If you want to use frozen leeks, just fry them in a pan or add them to boiling water.
How to use leeks in the kitchen?
Leeks are versatile. It can be boiled, stewed, fried and baked . You can fry it in butter or olive oil or caramelize it. Incorporate it into a dish or enjoy it alone as a vegetable side dish. However you cook it, it’s important to avoid overcooking it, as it will be mushy, even a bit slimy. The aim is to cook the leek until soft, although you should still use a bit of force to pierce it with a fork. Leeks are usually added to the recipe towards the end of the cooking time.
It tastes great in combination with chicken and ham and is especially delicious in recipes that contain cheese and cream . You’ll also often find it paired with cauliflower and cabbage , as well as basil, parsley, sage, and thyme. Leeks are also a key ingredient in bouqet garni , used to flavor broths, soups and sauces.
Raw leeks are also a popular part of the salad, which you can cut into crescents and use in burgers or various sandwiches . The bigger the leek, the more pronounced the taste. So if you prefer milder flavors, choose a smaller leek.
How to prepare and cut leeks before cooking?
How you cut the leek will vary depending on how you cook it. However, you can be inspired by our procedure.
- First, rinse the leek thoroughly under cold water and dry it with a paper towel, as it collects a lot of dirt.
- Alternatively, it can be soaked in a bowl of cold water for 30 minutes and the process repeated until the water is free of impurities.
- Then cut the leek in half lengthwise.
- Separate the dark green tops from the white and light green parts on a cutting board.
- Then cut off the fibrous roots and dark green leaves.
- Next, continue chopping the white and light green parts.
- Place them cut side down on a cutting board and cut them into thin crescents.
- Once you have chopped all the leeks, add the slices to the colander.
- Rinse them under cold running water to remove any dirt.
- Then use a paper towel to dry everything.
- Let the leeks sit for about 5 minutes before cooking – this will allow them to develop their nutritional benefits.
You won’t use the hard tops in most leek recipes, but don’t throw them away! They add a delicious onion flavor to the homemade broth. Store them in an airtight bag in the freezer until you’re ready to use them.
- To grill leeks, cut them in half lengthwise, rinse well, pat dry and grill on both sides over medium-high heat until well browned and soft.
- If you are baking it, cut it in half lengthwise, cut it into 2.5 cm pieces and wash it as described above. Then drizzle the pieces with olive oil, salt, pepper and bake at 220°C for about 20 minutes or until soft.
- To fry it, follow the slicing method described above and heat a little olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
With these basic ways to prepare leeks, you will be able to enjoy them as a side dish or add them to a variety of recipes that you love.
Tips for using leeks in recipes
- In soups. Leeks are known for their ability to add depth to soups. You can add it, for example, to oyster mushroom soup or creamy mushroom soup, or prepare a luxurious leek soup from it.
- In pasta. You can also use leeks in one of our recipes for stuffed canneloni .
- In risotto. As leeks combine beautifully with the flavors of chicken, cream and cheese, enjoy them in one of our chicken risotto recipes .
- With eggs. Add sautéed leeks to an omelet, scrambled eggs or a vegetable frittata. The leek and radish pie is also amazing.
- In the stuffing. Try some of our recipes for Easter stuffing , where leeks are perfect.
- For pizza. Make your own homemade pizza and top it with sautéed leeks.
- In spreads. Get inspired by our excellent recipes for leek spreads 7 times differently.
A cold soup of French origin is popular. It is called “vychyssoise” and is prepared by boiling leeks and potatoes, pureeing them and mixing them with cream and chicken stock.
What to replace the leek with?
If you don’t have leeks on hand right now, don’t panic. You can replace it with, for example:
- spring onion,
- regular onion (but use less than the recipe calls for, as onions have a stronger flavor than leeks).
Leek vs. spring onion
|Taste||Sweeter, slightly sour.||More pronounced and pungent.|
|Use in the kitchen||Rather, it is boiled because cooking softens it.||It is added fresh to dishes, as it becomes more slimy when heated.|
|Appearance||Larger.||Thinner and smaller.|
|Leaves||Fibrous and strong.||Thin, narrow and porous.|
How are leeks grown?
When to plant leeks?
Leeks can be planted in the bed around the last spring frost, which is sometime in April in our country. Young plants survive a mild frost, and mature plants can withstand even severe frosts. You can sow seeds in the box from about mid-February.
Where to grow leeks?
Choose a sunny location with rich, well-drained soil. Leek has shallow roots, so be careful when growing other plants near it. And also try to keep the area free of weeds. Gardeners with limited space can plant shallow-spicing, fast-growing salad greens among the leeks.
How to plant leeks?
Plant the seeds about 1/4 inch deep and 6 to 8 inches apart. When planting seedlings, mound the soil around the stem up to the first green leaf. Rows should be at least 30 cm apart. A supporting structure should not be necessary.
How to care for leeks?
- Leek prefers a lot of sunlight. At least six hours of direct sunlight on most days is ideal for it. Too little sun can result in weak and floppy growth.
- A well-drained loamy or sandy soil with a slightly acidic to neutral soil pH is best for leeks. Nutritious soil is also key to healthy growth, so consider adding organic matter or rich compost to your soil.
- Leeks have a shallow root system and need to be watered frequently – about an inch a week – to thrive. In most environments, weekly deep watering will suffice. However, if you live in a warm climate or experience particularly hot weather, you may need to increase your watering.
- Leeks generally do not require pruning during the growing season. However, it is important to remove any dead or diseased leaves as soon as possible so that they do not weaken the whole plant.
How to harvest leeks?
Leeks are ready to harvest when the stem is wider than about 2.5 cm and firm. You can get it out of the soil by twisting and pulling or digging.
How to grow leeks in pots?
Growing leeks in a pot is a good option if you don’t have enough garden space. Choose a container that is about 30 cm wide and 45 cm deep. You can add more than one plant to the container as long as there is about 15 cm of space on each side. Make sure the container has enough drainage holes. An unglazed clay pot is ideal, as it will allow excess soil moisture to evaporate through its walls.
Varieties of leeks
There are many varieties of leek, a general division into 3 types will suffice:
It grows faster and reaches a height of up to one meter. It can be harvested as early as July, but is normally harvested in August and September.
It should be sown from mid-February to mid-March. The harvest then takes place in October and November.
It is shorter but stronger. Just sow it in April and the harvest then starts in March and ends in May of the following year.
The history of leeks
Leeks have been consumed throughout most of human history and formed part of the Egyptian diet from around the second millennium BC. Leek is also described in the Hebrew Bible, was a favorite of the Roman emperor Nero and was cultivated in Mesopotamia.
But it is mainly associated with the Welsh. So much so that it is even one of the national emblems of Wales . And why is that so? He was one of the main reasons why the country won during the Battle of Heathfield in 633 AD According to one version of the story, a Celtic monk named David convinced the army to distinguish themselves from their enemies by wearing leeks in their helmets (the battle took place in a leek field) . To everyone’s surprise, this identification tool helped them win the battle. Another version of the story claims that it was the idea of King Cadwaladr of Gwynedd. In any case, leeks are still a symbol of good luck in Wales. It is worn annually by the Welsh on March 1 to celebrate St. David’s Day.
Leeks are also popular in Ireland . There is an old Irish legend that says Saint Patrick comforted a dying woman. She told him that she had a vision of an herb floating in the air and it was revealed to her that if she did not eat it she would die. It was a leek. Saint Patrick supplied it to her and she was cured.