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Mostly known to Europeans, leeks are root vegetables that look and taste like scallions, but are sweeter and more delicate. Native to Central Asia, leeks have been around for thousands of years and were valued by the ancient Greeks and Romans for their health benefits to the throat. The Bible mentions leeks and they have been found in archeological sites and on wall carvings in Egypt dating back to the 200 BC. The Roman emperor Nero was known to have used leeks to heal voice issues.
Even though most Americans are unfamiliar with leeks, they are high on the list of nutritious vegetables and are chock full of vitamins A, B-6, C, E and K, manganese, copper, iron, folate, carotenoids, dietary fiber, magnesium, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. Known to strengthen blood vessels and the cardiovascular system, leeks also help to reduce obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, risk of cancer and allergies.
Popular in Europe, leeks can be used in pies, casseroles, fritattas, soups, pasta, and pair well with zucchini, potatoes and capers. Roasting leeks with garlic, thyme and sage enhances leeks’ unique flavor for use as a side dish. Leeks have green leaves, a white stalk and a round root, but only the stalk and lighter leaves are edible. The darker leaves can be deep fried and used as a topping, or mixed into stir-fry. Unlike onions, leeks can’t be used raw, and must always be cooked cooked until they are tender.
Since leeks are a hardy winter plant, place your St. Clare Heirloom leek seeds in full sun, in the fall, harvesting them in the spring. Leeks are fine left in the ground until needed.
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