Back from the Dark Ages: Leeks

Leeks, where have you been all my life? As I was making yet another pot of leek and potato soup today, I found myself wondering: When did I first see leeks? Why have I never seen them growing? Just when did they start showing up in grocery stores this time of year? I don’t really recall, but leeks are relatively new to me. As much as I love onions, surely I wouldn’t have wasted much time trying them out. I don’t recall ever seeing them in California, either.

The Wikipedia article has some clues: “Because of their symbolism in Wales … , they have come to be used extensively in that country’s cuisine. Elsewhere in Britain, leeks have come back into favor only in the last 50 years or so, having been overlooked for several centuries.” Nothing is said about leeks in America. So more research is in order.

As for growing them, I probably won’t, for the same reason I decided not to grow garlic. Leeks (and garlic) like to grow for up to 180 days, it seems. That’s too long to take up space in the garden, especially for a plant as large as leeks.

Leek and potato soup is my favorite soup all of a sudden. It’s amazing how a vegetable so green and rich with fiber is so creamy in a soup.

According to the Wikipedia article, leeks were known in ancient Egypt. The Romans ate them. Our word leek, says Wikipedia (and my dictionary confirms it) comes from an Anglo-Saxon word, which makes leeks that much more special to me: “The name ‘leek’ developed from the Old English word lēac, from which the modern English name for garlic also derives.”

Leek and potato soup

The entry for lēac in my Anglo-Saxon dictionary

6 thoughts on “Back from the Dark Ages: Leeks”

  1. Hi Jo: And I’m shameless about having crackers with my soup! Once a Southern boy, always a Southern boy. 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving to you…

  2. Leeks quartered into a buttered dish then covered with cream (evap milk if feeling abstemious) topped with grated parm or romano and baked until tender. Yum. Great side dish.

  3. David, what recipe did you use? Jacques Pepin has a great one (julia, too, but way more complicated). And no dairy.

  4. Hi Amy… I didn’t really use a recipe. I cooked the potatoes separately so as not to overcook the leeks. I sautéed the leeks in butter. I put the potatoes into the stock pot with the leeks and water. Simmered VERY slow, covered, for about half an hour. Added my secret ingredient — Better Than Bouillon. Let that sit off the heat, covered, for an hour or two or three. Reheated and added salt, pepper, and some cream.

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