For other uses, see Leek (disambiguation).
Genus Allium
Species Allium ampeloprasum L.
Cultivar group Leek Group (other names are used, e.g. Porrum Group)
Cultivar Many, see text
Raw leeks, bulb & lower leaves
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 255 kJ (61 kcal)
14.15 g
Sugars 3.9 g
Dietary fiber 1.8 g
0.3 g
1.5 g
Vitamin A equiv.

83 μg

1000 μg
1900 μg
Thiamine (B1)

0.06 mg

Riboflavin (B2)

0.03 mg

Niacin (B3)

0.4 mg

Pantothenic acid (B5)

0.14 mg

Vitamin B6

0.233 mg

Folate (B9)

64 μg

Vitamin C

12 mg

Vitamin E

0.92 mg

Vitamin K

47 μg


59 mg


2.1 mg


28 mg


0.481 mg


35 mg


180 mg

Other constituents
Water 83 g

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

The leek is a vegetable, a cultivar of Allium ampeloprasum, the broadleaf wild leek. The edible part of the plant is a bundle of leaf sheaths that is sometimes erroneously called a stem or stalk. Historically, many scientific names were used for leeks, but they are now all treated as cultivars of A. ampeloprasum.[1] The name 'leek' developed from the Anglo-Saxon word leac.[2] Two closely related vegetables, elephant garlic and kurrat, are also cultivars of A. ampeloprasum, although different in their uses as food. The onion and garlic are also related, being other species of the genus Allium.


Rather than forming a tight bulb like the onion, the leek produces a long cylinder of bundled leaf sheaths that are generally blanched by pushing soil around them (trenching). They are often sold as small seedlings in flats that are started off early in greenhouses, to be planted out as weather permits. Once established in the garden, leeks are hardy; many varieties can be left in the ground during the winter to be harvested as needed.


Leek cultivars may be treated as a single cultivar group, e.g. as A. ampeloprasum 'Leek Group'.[3] The cultivars can be subdivided in several ways, but the most common types are "summer leeks", intended for harvest in the season when planted, and overwintering leeks, meant to be harvested in the spring of the year following planting. Summer leek types are generally smaller than overwintering types; overwintering types are generally more strongly flavored. Cultivars include 'King Richard' and 'Tadorna Blue'.


Leeks are easy to grow from seed and tolerate standing in the field for an extended harvest, which takes place up to 6 months from planting.[4] The soil in which it is grown has to be loose and drained well; leek can be grown in the same regions where onions can be grown.[5] Leeks usually reach maturity in the autumn months. The thrips species Thrips tabaci is considered a leek pest[6] and leeks can also get leek rust (Puccinia allii).[5] Leeks can be bunched and harvested early when they are about the size of a finger or pencil, or they can be thinned and allowed to grow to a much larger mature size. Hilling leeks can produce better specimens.


Fresh leek sautéing

Leeks have a mild, onion-like taste. In its raw state, the vegetable is crunchy and firm. The edible portions of the leek are the white base of the leaves (above the roots and stem base), the light green parts, and to a lesser extent the dark green parts of the leaves. One of the most popular uses is for adding flavor to stock. The dark green portion is usually discarded because it has a tough texture, but it can be sautéed or added to stock.[7] A few leaves are sometimes tied with twine and other herbs to form a bouquet garni.

Leeks are typically chopped into slices 5–10 mm thick. The slices have a tendency to fall apart, due to the layered structure of the leek. The different ways of preparing the vegetable are:

Leeks are an ingredient of cock-a-leekie soup, leek and potato soup, and vichyssoise, as well as plain leek soup.

Because of their symbolism in Wales (see below), 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.[10]

Historical consumption

Bible commentators attribute the חציר specimen—acclaimed by the Israelites to be of abundance in Egypt—as the leek.[11] Dried specimens from archaeological sites in ancient Egypt, as well as wall carvings and drawings, led Zohary and Hopf to conclude the leek was a part of the Egyptian diet from at least the second millennium BCE onwards. They also allude to surviving texts that show it had been also grown in Mesopotamia from the beginning of the second millennium BCE.[12] The leek was the favorite vegetable of the Emperor Nero, who consumed it in soup or in oil, believing it beneficial to the quality of his voice.[13]

Cultural significance

Still life with leeks by Carl Schuch (National Museum in Warsaw)

The leek is one of the national emblems of Wales, worn along with the daffodil (in Welsh, the daffodil is known as "Peter's leek", Cenhinen Bedr) on St. David’s Day. According to one legend, King Cadwaladr of Gwynedd ordered his soldiers to identify themselves by wearing the vegetable on their helmets in an ancient battle against the Saxons that took place in a leek field.[14] The Elizabethan poet Michael Drayton stated, in contrast, that the tradition was a tribute to Saint David, who ate only leeks when he was fasting.[15] Whatever the case, the leek has been known to be a symbol of Wales for a long time; Shakespeare, for example, refers to the custom of wearing a leek as an “ancient tradition” in Henry V. In the play, Henry tells the Welsh officer Fluellen that he, too, is wearing a leek “for I am Welsh, you know, good countryman.” The 1985 and 1990 British one pound coins bear the design of a leek in a coronet, representing Wales.

Alongside the other national floral emblems of countries in the Commonwealth (including the English Tudor Rose, Scottish thistle, Irish shamrock, Canadian maple leaf, and Indian lotus), the Welsh leek appeared on the coronation gown of Elizabeth II. It was designed by Norman Hartnell; when Hartnell asked if he could exchange the leek for the more aesthetically pleasing Welsh daffodil, he was told no.[16]

Perhaps the most visible use of the leek, however, is as the cap badge of the Welsh Guards, a regiment within the Household Division of the British Army.

In Romania, the leek is also widely considered a symbol of Oltenia, a historical region in the southwestern part of the country.

See also


  1. "Allium ampeloprasum", World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, retrieved 2013-02-01
  2. Caroline Foley (2006). The A-Z of Allotment Vegetables. New Holland Publishers. p. 75. ISBN 978-1-84537-283-5.
  3. Brewster, James L. (2008). Onions and other vegetable alliums (2nd ed.). Wallingford, UK: CABI International. ISBN 978-1-84593-399-9. p. 30
  4. Marie Iannotti (25 February 2014). The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Northeast. Timber Press. pp. 186–. ISBN 978-1-60469-595-3.
  5. 1 2 K. V. Peter (25 August 2006). Handbook of Herbs and Spices. Elsevier Science. pp. 370–371. ISBN 978-1-84569-171-4.
  6. Theunissen, J.; Legutowska, H. (1991). "Thrips tabaciLindeman (Thysanoptera, Thripidae) in leek: symptoms, distribution and population estimates". Journal of Applied Entomology. 112 (1-5): 163–170. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0418.1991.tb01042.x. ISSN 0931-2048.
  7. Librarie Larousse, ed. (1984). Larousse Gastronomique: The World's Greatest Cooking Encyclopedia. The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited.
  8. http://www.takvim.com.tr/Yemek/Diger/2013/01/02/zeytinyagli-pirasa-sarmasi Leek sarma with olive oil recipe
  9. http://www.turkish-media.com/yemektarifleri/viewrecipe.php?id=859&ord=id&asc=DESC Leek sarma with meat recipe
  10. Jane Grigson, Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book, (Penguin Books, 1978, ISBN 0-14-046859-5) p 291
  11. Glantz, Animal and plant life in the Torah, חי וצומח בתורה, p. 204
  12. Zohary, Daniel; Hopf, Maria (2000). Domestication of plants in the Old World (Third ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 195. ISBN 0-19-850357-1.
  13. Pliny, Historia Naturalis, XIX, 33.
  14. The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction. 5. London: J Limbard. 1825.
  15. Cumo, Christopher, Encyclopedia of Cultivated Plants: From Acacia to Zinnia, ABC-CLIO, 2013, p.561.
  16. Rosemary Goulding (June 1998). "SILVER AND GOLD". Waterlooville Parish Church. Retrieved 8 February 2013.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Allium ampeloprasum.
Wikibooks Cookbook has a recipe/module on
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/17/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.