Do you like onions but wish they weren’t so pungent? Leeks may be for you! The more mild allium is grown throughout Michigan and is available mostly in early Fall to late Spring. Their mild flavor is the perfect accompaniment to dishes like potato-leek soup and quiches.
Leeks in the Garden
To grow leeks in your garden, review MSU Extension’s guide on How to Grow Leeks. Though not especially common in home gardens, leeks are hardy plants that grow best in well drained soil. For best results, don’t plant leeks where you’ve had other alliums like onions, shallots or garlic in the past two years. As the leeks grow, hill the soil to keep the edible whites white, and only harvest as needed, as leeks keep best in the ground.
Leeks and Nutrition
According to Healthline, leeks are a great source of Vitamin A, which helps with vision and immunity, as well as Vitamin K. In addition to being tasty, they are also a good source of soluble fiber, keeping your gut happy.
Leeks in the Kitchen
MSU Extension’s Michigan Fresh recommends storing leeks unwashed and untrimmed in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic to avoid having other foods affected by the allium odor. They will keep for up to two weeks stored in this manner.
How to Cut Leeks
Because leeks can grow in a way that traps sand and dirt in the layers, it’s a great idea to split the stalk in half directly through the root end and rinse carefully under cold water, opening up each layer to wash out any grit. From there, you can slice half moons horizontally across the stem. If making a dish like leek rings, simply cut the stalk into sections and wash the rings after separating.
While the white and light green parts are generally what’s used in leek recipes, don’t throw the woody green ends away! These parts are also edible, although it’s often recommended to cook them much more thoroughly, or save them for making broth.
Recipe: Cider-Braised Leeks with Bacon
Since leeks are a great Fall-time treat, pair it with other local favorites from the same season! All of these ingredients may be easily found at your favorite market this September.
- 4 slices bacon
- 4 leeks, root just trimmed to keep intact or washed well, dark greens removed and stalk sliced in half
- 1½ cup fresh apple cider
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Chives, for garnish
*To make this recipe vegetarian/vegan, substitute bacon with vegetable oil, and heavy cream with oat creamer. You’ll miss some smokiness, and will need to season more liberally, but the leeks will still shine!
Chop the 4 slices of bacon into small pieces, and add to a cold and large braising pan. Bring the heat to medium, slowly rendering all fat. Once bacon pieces are rendered crispy, remove and set aside on a plate with a paper towel or cloth napkin.
Add the leeks stalks to the pan with the bacon fat, cut-side down, and bring the heat to medium-high, allowing to sear for 5 minutes, or until they develop deep golden-brown edges. Flip them cut-side up and add apple cider, using a spoon to bring up the fond on the bottom of the pan, being careful not to disturb the leeks too much. Cook for 15 minutes covered on medium-low, and check for tenderness. Once fork-tender, remove the lid, and simmer until the liquid has almost evaporated.
Finally, add in heavy cream, and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Garnish with crispy bacon pieces and chives.
Have you found leeks at your local farm stand? Find a local source close to you with our Find Food and Farms Directory!
Claire Butler is the Content Strategy Specialist for Taste the Local Difference. Contact her at [email protected]
Resources: The Kitchen Garden by Alan Buckingham