name = Leek

image_width = 250px
regnum = Plantae
divisio = Magnoliophyta
classis = Liliopsida
ordo = Asparagales
familia = Alliaceae
genus = "Allium"
species = "A. ampeloprasum"
subspecies = "A. ampeloprasum" var. "porrum"
trinomial = "Allium ampeloprasum" var. "porrum"
trinomial_authority = (L.) J.Gay
The leek , "Allium ampeloprasum" var. "porrum" (L.), also sometimes known as "Allium porrum", is a vegetable which belongs, along with the onion and garlic, to the "Alliaceae" family. Two related vegetables, the elephant garlic and kurrat, are also variant subspecies of "Allium ampeloprasum", although different in their uses as food.

The edible part of the leek plant is sometimes called a stem, though technically it is a bundle of leaf sheaths.


Rather than forming a tight bulb like the onion, the leek produces a long cylinder of bundled leaf sheaths which are generally blanched by pushing soil around them (trenching). They are often sold as small seedlings in flats which 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 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.


Leeks are easy to grow from seed and tolerate standing in the field for an extended harvest. Leeks usually reach maturity in the autumn months, and they have few pest or disease problems. 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.


The edible portions of the Leek are the white onion base and light green stalk. The onion-like layers form around a core. The tender core may be eaten, but as the leek ages the core becomes woody and better replanted than eaten. Leeks are an essential ingredient of cock-a-leekie, Leek and Potato Soup and vichyssoise. They can also be used raw in salads, doing especially well when they are the prime ingredient.

Because of their symbolism in Wales (see below), they have come to be used extensively in that country's cuisine, while in the rest of Britain leeks have only come back into favour in the last fifty years or so, having been overlooked for several centuries [Jane Grigson, "Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book", (Penguin Books, 1978, ISBN 0140468595) p 291] .

Historical consumption

Dried specimens from archaeological sites in ancient Egypt, as well as wall carvings and drawings, led Zohary and Hopf to conclude that the leek was a part of the Egyptian diet "from at least the 2nd millennium B.C. onwards." They also allude to surviving texts that show it had been also grown in Mesopotamia from the beginning of the 2nd millennium B.C. [Daniel Zohary and Maria Hopf, "Domestication of plants in the Old World", third edition (Oxford: University Press, 2000),p. 195] The leek was the favorite vegetable of the Emperor Nero, who consumed it most often in soup.

Cultural Significance

The leek is one of the national emblems of Wales, whose citizens wear it - or the daffodil - 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. This story may have been made up by the English poet Michael Drayton, but it is known that the leek has been 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 Fluellen that he 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.

Perhaps most visibly however is the leek's use as the Cap badge of the Welsh Guards, a Regiment within the Household Division of the British Army.

ee also

*Wild leek, also known as ramps
*Laukaz, a rune that has been speculated to mean "leek"
*List of vegetables
*Culture of Wales


External links

* [http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=ALAM Allium ampeloprasum L.] on US National PLANTS Database
* [http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=ALPO2 Allium porrum L.] on US National PLANTS Database
* [http://www.floridata.com/ref/A/alli_amp.cfm Allium ampeloprasum, Porrum] on Floridata
* [http://www.ibiblio.org/pfaf/cgi-bin/arr_html?Allium+porrum Leek] : Plants For a Future database
* [http://www.foodmuseum.com/leek.html Food Museum page]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Leek — Héraldique …   Wikipédia en Français

  • leek — (n.) culinary herb, O.E. læc (Mercian), leac (W.Saxon) leek, onion, garlic, from P.Gmc. *lauka (Cf. O.N. laukr leek, garlic, Dan. lèg, Swed. lök onion, O.S. lok leek, M.Du. looc, Du. look leek, garlic, O.H.G …   Etymology dictionary

  • leek — /leek/, n. 1. a plant, Allium ampeloprasum, of the amaryllis family, allied to the onion, having a cylindrical bulb and leaves used in cookery. 2. any of various allied species. [bef. 1000; ME; OE leac; c. G Lauch, ON laukr] * * * Hardy, vigorous …   Universalium

  • Leek — (l[=e]k), n. [AS. le[ a]c; akin to D. look, G. lauch, OHG. louh, Icel. laukr, Sw. l[ o]k, Dan l[ o]g. Cf. {Garlic}.] (Bot.) A plant of the genus {Allium} ({Allium Porrum}), having broadly linear succulent leaves rising from a loose oblong… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Leek — hat folgende Bedeutungen: eine Gemeinde in der Provinz Groningen, siehe Leek (Niederlande) eine Kleinstadt in der Grafschaft Staffordshire, siehe Leek (England) Diese Seite ist eine Begriffsklärung zur Unterscheidung mehrerer mit demselben Wort… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • LEEK — (Heb. הָצִיר, ḥaẓir), vegetable. Allium porrum is mentioned among the vegetables of Egypt for which the children of Israel craved during their journey in the wilderness (Num. 11:5). This vegetable was popular with the Egyptians, sketches of it… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • leek — leek. См. луки. (Источник: «Англо русский толковый словарь генетических терминов». Арефьев В.А., Лисовенко Л.А., Москва: Изд во ВНИРО, 1995 г.) …   Молекулярная биология и генетика. Толковый словарь.

  • Leek — (de), Dorf in der niederländischen Provinz Gröningen, 21/2 Stunden südwestlich von Gröningen. Dabei das fischreiche Leekster Meer, ein Landsee …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Leek — (spr. līk), Stadt im Norden Staffordshires (England), auf einer Anhöhe über dem Churnet und an einem Zweige des Trent Merseykanals, mit gotischer Pfarrkirche (1867–75 restauriert), dem Nicholson Institut (Freibibliothek, Museum u. Kunstschule),… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Leek — (spr. lihk), Stadt in der engl. Grafsch. Stafford, (1901) 15.484 E.; Seidenspinnerei …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • leek — [li:k] n [: Old English; Origin: leac] a vegetable with a long white stem and long flat green leaves, which tastes like an onion …   Dictionary of contemporary English

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.