We may think of leeks as fancy onions, but they have actually been around feeding the common man for thousands of years.
The Israelites, during their 40 years wandering in the wilderness in their trek to the Promised Land, grumbled for the foods they enjoyed in Egypt, including leeks, onions and garlic.
In the 6th Century AD, St. David had the Welsh soldiers wear leeks in their hats to distinguish themselves from their Saxon foes. A great victory was theirs and the leek is still the national symbol of Wales.
And in Scotland, leeks are an essential ingredient in the national soup, Cock-a-Leekie, made for centuries with chicken, leeks, and thickened with barley.
Leeks are planted on our own Twin Brooks Farm in the late spring and left to grow all summer. Soil is periodically raked up against the plant. The higher the soil is “hilled”, the longer the tender white and desirable portion of the leek becomes.
Now that fall is here, the leeks on the farm are maturing and we are starting to harvest them. They will keep growing throughout the winter and will provide us with fresh, tasty eating for many months.
Leeks can be enjoyed in many ways. They have a mild, onion-like taste and are crunchy and firm when eaten raw in salads. Usually just the white and light green portions are eaten, but the tops, although tougher, are usable for flavoring stocks.
To prepare, cut off the tops and roots and slice the leeks lengthwise. Rinse under running water to remove any grit that may remain in the leek from hilling. At this point the leeks are usually cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices, sautéed and added to casseroles. soups, and stews.
Braised leeks are a way to enjoy them on their own. Trim, slice lengthwise, and clean 6 young leeks. Lightly brown both sides in olive oil in an oven proof skillet . Add 1/2 cup dry white wine and enough chicken stock to cover. Simmer until tender. Pour off excess liquid, sprinkle with parmesan, and melt the cheese under the broiler. Delicious!