Yay! It’s that time of year again.
Despite the sizeable (but slowly diminishing) drifts of snow the first seed catalogues have arrived
Our local feed store even has their seed display set up – right next to the blazing, and much needed wood fire. And, as if this wasn’t incentive enough to start planning this year’s garden – well, a trip to a seed swap (Seedy Saturday) is sure to get those green thumbs out of hibernation.
At this time of year – actually it’s less than thirty days away from Spring, even if it doesn’t feel much like it some days– choices are so easily influenced by innate longings for all things summer, including what grows in the garden: crunchy greens, tomatoes, cucumbers peppers and so on.
It’s tempting to forget about the Fall crops that tide us over the winter months, forming the basis for so many hearty winter meals. Winter crops store well but generally speaking are slower growing than their summer time counter parts, which tend to gallop through their growth stages toward maturity in order to avoid the first frost. Late crops such as Brussels sprouts, parsnips and leeks don’t have to hurry because they’re quite frost tolerant.
Leeks, members of the Allium genus, are beautiful vegetables that really don’t get the attention they deserve, in my opinion. They’re easy to grow, they store remarkably well, and their mild, oniony flavor is perfect for quiches, soups and stir-frys, as well as in more adventurous dishes such as vegetable pie or a ‘modified’ spanakopita.
So, this is my shout-out for Leeks!
They do need to be started really early. The seed is tiny and can be difficult to space in a typical garden bed and, when they eventually poke up through the soil, they look just like tiny blades of grass. This resemblance makes it more than likely that they’ll get ‘weeded’ out. It’s much better to start leeks inside.
Good news is that this doesn’t need to be a major undertaking, with each seed requiring its own little pot. It’s much easier to sprinkle a few seeds together in one large pot. One of the great things about leeks is that they don’t mind having their roots disturbed. This means that the grass-like leek sprouts can be left in the one pot for a couple of months until it’s convenient to transplant them. The roots will no doubt be tangled but can be gently separated and replanted. No problem.
Leeks like to be planted in trenches of rich soil and then gradually hilled up as they grow. This increases the size of the white, tender base of the leek. They do also need plenty of water to really flourish. Heavy mulching will help with water retention, will keep the weeds away and will also help to keep the soil cool. This puts leeks in their ‘happy place’, and once they’ve been ‘happily’ bedded in I find leeks to be pretty much hassle free.
The hilling up of leeks can result in some particles of dirt getting trapped under the outer layers of the leek. No problem! There’s a super easy way to clean leeks. Simply slice down the centre of the leek from top to bottom, holding firmly onto the base of the leek, then dunk it a few times in clean water. Any soil particles will be instantly released – it’s that simple. They’re now ready for slicing into your favorite dish. Mine is leek and feta quiche, with cream of leek and potato soup a close second.
Leeks are the emblem of that so wonderful country of Wales (okay, so I’m slightly biased!) so why not plant some leeks on March 1st in honour of St David’s Day (the patron saint of Wales) and to scratch that itchy green thumb but mostly to ensure a good crop of this super nutritious allium that will store for many months and grace no end of delicious meals.
My big news is that my new book, The Food Lover’s Garden, is at the printer’s and slated to be in the stores around March 21st This book is in full color and I got to illustrate it with thirty some watercolor paintings of one of my favorite things – vegetables – as well as forty some photographs all taken right here at QuackaDoodle Farm.
It looks like the designer has done a magnificent job and as usual all the folks at New Society Publishers have been wonderful to work with. I feel truly blessed to be working with such an ethical and efficient company that strives hard to produce the perfect, eco friendly product. Kudos to them!