Leeks are an edible bundle of stalk-like leaves that are also under the onion, Chinese onion, shallot, scallion, garlic, and chives family. A crop native to the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean, this ancient plant has a deliciously mild flavor close to onions but is less astringent and more sweet. Read more about this interesting gradient colored green vegetable in this article.
A Short Introduction
The leek vegetable (leek scientific name ”Allium ampeloprasum”) is a crop grown since Ancient times from the Middle East and Eastern mediterranean. These have such a cultural significance that this plant called the ‘Peter’s Leek” in Wales can be found as one it’s national emblems. This emblem was placed on soldiers’ helmets to signify and identify those fighting during the ancient battle from the Saxons that happened in a leek field. you can also find this in every Welsh (international) rugby match. It can also be found in Shakespeare where it was a written custom to wear the plant as tradition in the play Henry V. In Romania the stalk-like vegetable symbolized Oltenia a historical region of Romania’s southwestern area. In East Asian Culture one might associate leeks with Hatsune Miku a popular character under the an AI voice synthesizer group Vocaloid, famous around Japan and many parts of the world as a 3D character-‘singer’.
Closely related to onions, shallots, garlic, chinese onions, chives, and scallions all having close to similar taste with leeks being a tad milder and sweeter. These are typically used in European stews and soups, or commonly partnered with potato-based dishes. What part of the leek do you eat? When cooked most people would separate the white and lighter green area of the stalk to the darker green leaves. This is because the lighter parts of the stalk have more flavor and are less bitter than the greener parts of the leaves. Depending if you are using these raw it gives a close onion like flavor with slight sweetness, if broiled it makes the taste milder, cooking it by frying makes it crunchy and preserves the flavor. All creating wonderful dishes such as the popular leek and potato soup recipe or the more indulgent leek and potato soup with bacon, chicken and leek pie, a simple but filling leek risotto, or leek quiche, adding these to braised meats, grilled as a side dish, or simply used as garnish over rice or noodles.
- leek vs scallion (leek vs green onion) – scallions are like the smaller and thinner version of the two, with just the slight difference in taste. It’s just scallions that still keep their onion-like sharpness whereas leeks when cooked can have a subtle sweet taste.
- Onions – any variety of the onion from white, yellow, red can be used as a substitute. The difference is that raw onions compared to leeks are sharper and stronger in taste. When both are cooked some onions like white and yellow are sweeter in comparison to the stalk-vegetable.
- Shallots – shallots resembles onions more with a similar mild onion taste mixed with a slight garlicky flavor. Around 6 to 8 small shallots can replace a large leek.
- Chives – are a great alternative in terms of looks and usage but it may have a more garlic-like flavor compared to the onion-like taste that leeks have.
- Use onion or garlic powder, some even use a mix of both. Just make sure to add a little at a time, mixing in more if needed as some powders to taste saltier. These are great as alternatives to stews, soups, or marinades.
A versatile and easy to use raw or cooked vegetables that adds a nice subtle flavor and contains a good variety of vitamins and nutrients. From being low calorie, fibrous, field with many more benefits that can help your vision to cell reproduction, immunity, and collagen production. Here are more on what this unassuming vegetable can do for you:
- A great source of antioxidants that helps keep from diseases and certain cancers. Once of the important compounds called ‘ kaempferol’ fights cancer by killing cancer cells, keeping it from spreading.
- It’s fibrous which is helpful for those interested in weight loss. Soluble fiber found in the vegetable keeps the gut healthy which in turn keeps the body’s immunity up.
- A healthy digestive system from the fibers also helps control blood pressure, lower sugar levels, cholesterol and inflammation, blood clots, and might improve brain function.
- Promotes heart health, similar to other bulbs from the allium family these help by reducing inflammation and from many studies keep from stroke and heart related diseases.
- Are there any benefits of leeks for diabetics? An especially important and beneficial ingredient to those wanting an easy to eat and add into their daily menu. Being a rich source of soluble fiber especially to those who have a low glycemic index and type 2 diabetes. Some even turn these into a juice to drink.
- How to clean a leek?
- Take a stalk and remove the tip if it’s brown, if there are some brown colored layers peel these by dragging it from the tip to the root.
- Chop the roots away. If you are planning to regrow these, make sure to cut 2 inches away from the root.
- Place the stalk under running water, rubbing it till you don’t find any bits of dirt and any slimy film it might have.
- Chop with a knife or scissors to the preferred size.
- How to cut a leek
Depending on what it is used for. For example; when stewed or cooked for longer periods of time these are sliced vertically 2 – 3 inches in length, when sauteed 1 inch or smaller, and when used as garnish these are chopped smaller or thinner.
- What part of leek to use
The stalk being a gradient colored vegetable from white to a lighter green has many uses.
- Most use the white to light green area of the stalk as this is where the flavor is stronger. These are best for and anything substituting the allium family from stocks, soups or stews, sauteing, salads, and more.
- Some throw away the greener parts or use them as garnish or in dishes that need less time to cook. The greener part of the stalk can taste bitter when overcooked.
- How to cook leeks in soup
Depending on the dish and how the ingredients have been sliced will depend on how long it requires the stalk to cook. It also depends on the method of cooking like one would with a potato leek soup recipe. At most, leeks should be cooked around 5 to 7 minutes or till tender.
Leek in Tagalog “Dahong Sibuyas” sometimes confused with “sibuyas na mura” which is what most would call spring onions, some even call this “malaking dahon ng sibuyas” literally meaning the “bigger young onion leaves”. While you don’t typically find these in Filipino cuisine, these are appreciated by many and are used as an onion substitute in many Chinese-Filipino fusion dishes, a popular ingredient to fellow Filipino home cooks who love cooking Japanese or Korean dishes at home.
How to cook leeks healthily? Use them as an alternative to onions, fry, stew, blend into soups, add into stews, or top them over rice for extra fiber. These can easily be added into almost any savory dish. Try using or replacing these in some of these Yummy Recipes: