Every month we will be featuring a vegetable or fruit which is in season. This month it’s the Leek. The Leek is a very hardy vegetable withstanding all that the british winter weather can throw at it, yet it is an easy vegetable to grow and quite low maintenance, and will sit quite happily waiting to be harvested.
Leeks need a sunny site and well drained fertile soil, a raised bed would be ideal, dig in organic matter/ farmyard manure into the soil in the autumn and then a general fertilizer such as chicken manure at least a week before planting.
Seeds can be planted individually in seed cells or small pots in seed compost, cover lightly with seed compost or vermiculite and water well. Seeds can be germinated in a propagator (55-60F) and once through should be placed in a bright position (windowsill, frost free greenhouse or polytunnel). Once the young plants have a stem the thickness of a pencil they need to be hardened off and can then be transferred to their final planting position.
Leeks can be planted in rows and should be spaced out 15cm between plants and 30cm between rows. Make a hole using a dibber about 15cm deep and drop the plant into the bottom so that a little of the leaf is visible, water each well to settle the roots but do not fill the hole with soil. If there is a dry spell you may need to give the plants some extra water. You can feed the plants occasionally throughout the summer with chicken manure until the beginning of September and keep them weed free.
Leeks can be picked at any stage even if they are the thickness of a pencil (ideal for-stir fries or salads) or can be left longer to reach full size although there is some loss of flavour as their size increases. Never try to wrench the plant out of the soil lift gently with a fork, any excess leaves or roots can go into the compost bin.
Once harvested put the unwashed leeks in a plastic bag into the fridge where they will keep for up to 5 days. To clean your leek before eating one of the best ways is to slit down the middle with a knife and open them up under running water. If you have a glut or need the space Leeks can be frozen, simply clean them discarding the leaves and roots and chop the trunk of the stem into 2.5cm pieces before placing in a labelled freezer bag where they will keep in the freezer for 3 months.