Leek (Allium porrum)
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The leek (Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum (L.)) is a vegetable belonging, along with the onion and garlic, to the Alliaceae family. Also in this species are two very different vegetables: the elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum), grown for its bulbs, and kurrat, which is grown in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East for its leaves. The leek is also sometimes classified as Allium porrum (L.).
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.