The Seed Program
This is one of the many growing hints that are available as a
bonus with a registered copy of The Seed Program.
Leeks are a crop that all gardeners should try -- most will be
surprised at how easy they are to grow and how delicious they
taste. Leeks have a mild onion flavor, and in most places can
be harvested straight through the winter (although you may need
a pick axe to get them out of the ground at times).
Leeks cannot be started from sets, as some bulbing onion varieties
can. Fortunately, leeks are very easy to grow from seed and aren't
bothered much by transplanting. Follow the same procedure that
is used to start onions. Start the seed indoors in mid winter.
Use a wide flat with one compartment, such as the plastic tray
that mushrooms are sold in (remember to punch a few drainage holes
in the bottom if you decide to "recycle" a mushroom
tray). Scatter the seed thinly and evenly. Keep the tray under
grow lights or in a very bright window. When the grass-like leek
plants get to be six or seven inches long, use a scissors to cut
them back to one and a half or two inches in length (use the part
you cut off as you would chives).
In early spring, as soon as you are able to prepare a spot out
in the garden, gently pull the individual plants apart and plant
them about six inches apart. Leek plants appreciate fertile soil
and plenty of moisture. A mulch is helpful, especially in the
heat of summer or if conditions are dry.
Leeks are traditionally blanched to increase the tender light
green portion of the edible stem, although this is not entirely
necessary and the dark green part is actually more nutritious.
There are different approaches to blanching. One of the easiest
ways is to plant the leeks in a trench six to eight inches deep.
As the plants grow, gradually break down the sides of the trench
to cover the lower portions of the plant. Mulch can also be pulled
up close to the plant to blanch them, but the mulch must be tightly
packed enough to exclude light in order to be effective in blanching
them. A combination of trenching and mulching is probably your
best bet -- some blanching with soil does produce a better leek
and the mulch is very helpful for eliminating weeds and providing
the cool moist conditions that leeks like. Pile on an extra thick
layer of mulch in early winter to delay the freezing of the soil.
The plant won't really notice, but this will make it easier to
rip them out of the ground when the weather gets cold.
Leeks can be harvested at any time, but you will want to let
them reach full size unless you've planted quite a few of them.
Harvest can continue all through the winter and into early spring.
The plants will quickly send up a seed stalk their second year,
and will not be much good for eating once this happens.
Leeks are sometimes blamed for being "gritty." Dirt
can easily work in between the leaves but a little special attention
will get rid of it. When you've harvested your leeks, cut the
roots off the bottom and trim the green leafy part off of the
top. Peel off a layer or two of leaves if they look ragged. Cut
the remaining leek into long sections, and cut these in half lengthwise.
Rinse the leek thoroughly under running water, first holding one
end and then the other to wash all the leaf surfaces briefly.
This will quickly and simply get rid of any trapped soil that
might have resulted in a gritty leek.
Leeks have a taste all their own, but are very much like a mild
onion. They can be used in place on onions in many recipes. Leek
and potato soup is a classic recipe, and a delicious way to use
large amounts of both of these garden crops.
For more crops, more complete gardening information, a garden
journal and a planting schedule you can customize for your region,
purchase The Seed Program!
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