Leeks

Leeks

leeks

Leeks are a member of the onion family with a mild onion-like flavor.  They are rarely consumed raw but can be used in many recipes that call for onions, shallots, or green onions.  Like other members of the allium vegetable family, leeks contain organosulfur compounds that are known to offer health benefits, especially for the cardiovascular system and in the prevention of cancer (Source: Allium Vegetables and Organosulfur Compounds: Do They Help Prevent Cancer?).

This unassuming vegetable is actually one of the national symbols of Wales and appears on a UK one-pound coin.  If you enjoy food history you may want to check out this BBC blog post on leeks.

The Celery Lovers’ Celery Root Soup that I made last week used half a leek, but you can’t just buy half a leek, so I had two and a half leeks sitting in my refrigerator.  I didn’t grow up eating leeks so I don’t have any go-to recipes that call for them.  I’ve purchased them maybe half a dozen times in my entire adult life, and then only if I was testing a recipe that called for them.  So in the spirit of this blog series I set out to find a recipe that would let the leeks shine.

I found a leek pie recipe (original here) that would use up my week-old leeks and tweaked it a little so I could use up a few other ingredients I had on hand, like bacon.

Leeks, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights February 2017. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-feb-2017#Leeks

Leek and Bacon Pie

Leek and Bacon Pie

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 1hr 15mins
  • Difficulty: easy

Ingredients

  • Pie crust for 9 inch pie
  • ~1/3 pound bacon, coarsely chopped
  • 2 ½ leeks (if you have 3 whole leeks, use them), sliced (if the leeks have soil trapped between their leaves you’ll want to rinse and drain them after slicing)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 ¼ cups shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

Directions

  • Preheat your oven to 375°F.
  • Make your pie crust.  I use the recipe in the Fanny Farmer Cookbook (2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2/3 cups shortening, 1/3 cup water; I make extra so I can use the leftovers to make a batch of pie crust cinnamon rolls).  Set aside.
  • Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat and cook bacon until crispy.  Remove to a paper towel-lined plate with a slotted spoon.  Add the sliced leeks to the bacon fat in the pan and cook until soft, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the bacon and season with salt and pepper.
  • Spread ½ the leek and bacon mixture in the pie plate.  Cover with half the shredded Gruyere.  Repeat with the other half of the leeks and bacon and the other half of the cheese.  Pour the cream gently over the top of the pie and bake for 30 minutes.
  • The cheese on top will turn a nice golden brown.  Allow to set for 10-15 minutes before slicing.
  • This pie was a big hit at my house – my husband ate half the pie before it even got cold!
Leeks, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights February 2017. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-feb-2017#Leeks

Jean-Martin Fortier, author of The Market Gardener, presented the 2017 Great Plains Fruit & Vegetable Growers keynote address.

In the Garden
I attended a presentation yesterday by Jean-Martin Fortier, author of The Market Gardener, where he relayed a story about leek production.

When Jean-Martin and his wife started growing leeks, too much of the plant was green to meet the expectations of a particular French customer at the farmers’ market.  We’re used to the bottom half of a leek being white, but they only look like that if you protect that part of the plant from sunlight.  This can be accomplished by planting leek starts in 8-inch deep holes created by a dibbler in a raised bed.  You can hear about this tip and others from JM in this Profitable Market Gardening on 1.5 Acres podcast by Permaculture Voices (leek story starts around 38:35 minutes) and see the slides here (the slide about planting leaks is #47 of 84).

For more information about growing leeks, check out these Extension resources.  For best results, go by recommendations from a state with similar soils and climate to your own.

  • Leeks – Cornell University
  • Leeks – Oregon State University
  • Leeks – University of Minnesota
Connie Fisk
Connie Fisk
Extension Educator, Regional Food Systems

Connie teaches youth and adults the research-based information and skills they need to grow, handle, and market fruits, vegetables, and other edible specialty crops in Eastern Nebraska. She is also a lead trainer for the Produce Safety Alliance FSMA Grower Training and a co-facilitator for the Nebraska Farm Beginnings® program.

Pinterest, https://www.pinterest.com/connie_fisk/
Twitter, https://twitter.com/connie_fisk

Connie is located at:
Cass County Extension
8400 144th Street
Weeping Water, NE, 68463
402-267-2205