Leeks: Why we love them

08 Nov 2023

In the colder months, leeks adorn our counters, reminiscent of the smell of childhood stews. They are beloved for their gentle onion-like sweetness and versatile texture. Beyond their culinary contribution, leeks enrich our autumn meals with beneficial compounds.

In a Nutshell

Plant Tales

  1. A member of the onion family. The leek is a biennial plant, scientifically known as Allium porrum. It’s proudly related to onions and garlic but it has flat leaves, a very small bulb and a milder, sweet flavour.
  2. Cultivated from early times. The leeks we know today were developed from a wild type, native to Mediterranean lands and Western Asia. They were first cultivated around 2000 B.C. and were part of the diet of ancient civilisations, including the Ancient Egyptians.
  3. A Welsh emblem. It stands proudly as a national symbol of Wales, traditionally worn on St. David’s Day and at international rugby matches. Legends trace its origin to a 7th-century battle amidst a leek field, where Welsh soldiers adorned their armour with leeks to stand apart from the Saxons. This tradition is even immortalized in Shakespeare’s play “Henry”, where a character proudly wears a leek, declaring, “for I am Welsh, you know, good countryman.”
  4. Ancient healing:   In traditional medicine, leek bulb powder is used to alleviate inflammatory ailments, such as coughs, mucous secretion and sore throats, while the juice is considered a digestive stimulant and antispasmodic. 
  5. Add warmth to your autumn meals: Leeks are a cool-season crop, available for a rather long season in autumn and winter when other fresh crops might be scarce. Count on them to bring warmth and flavour to your table this season.

Health Potential

One of your Allium vegetables: According to human studies, a higher intake of Allium vegetables, including leeks, garlic, scallions, onions and chives, is linked to:

To your meals, leeks add:

  • Sulphur compounds, which   create the characteristic onion flavour
  • Flavonoids like quercetin
  • Dietary fibres and their beneficial effects on the gut microbiota
  • Vitamin A and K

How does it work? These compounds found in leeks show antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic properties in cell and animal-based studies. For example, leek extracts may regulate the production of inflammatory mediators by inhibiting the MAPK signalling pathway.

5 ways to enjoy

  1. Slow-cooked in a pan with olive oil until meltingly soft and finished with crushed hazelnuts.
  2. With eggs, like in an omelette or frittata or as a bed for baked eggs, to add a mild, sweet onion flavour. Try adding leafy greens, spices and feta.
  3. In fried rice for a nice allium-y base flavour that has more bite than onions or shallots.
  4. In a bean stew with onions, tarragon, white beans and broth.
  5. In soups to add a nuanced sweetness and contribute to a velvety consistency.

Recipes with leeks



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