By Heidi Lewis
We are very pleased to have renowned veggipologist Mary Leekey here with us today to present her seminal scholarly paper: “Demystifying Leeks.”
Dr. Leekey: “Thank you esteemed colleagues, honored guests, and fellow vegetable aficionados. For your consideration today, the leek—an elegant vegetable with a long, rich history. The slender stalks of leeks seem de rigueur in French grocery bags. Their reputation for being French can be attributed to Julia Child, who brought us many delicious ways to prepare them; among them, braised with radishes and aromatic herbs or in a gratin.
“Adding to leeks’ impressive resume is that they are frequently a substitute for onion in mirepoix (chef speak for onion, carrot, and celery). Being of onion relations, albeit milder, leeks are a fabulous foundation to any sauce or soup.
“The leek wasn’t always French gourmet, however; it’s been around for a long time—a staple in Europe since the Romans introduced it with their expansions. Like its allium relatives, it served a critical part in common peoples’ fare as a way to flavor poor cuts of meat and older root vegetables.
“Even with its humble beginnings, it became a vegetable of refinement through cultivation. The farmer heaps soil around the stem, so the base is blanched—white and tender. This is why leeks may be sandy. You needn’t be a veggipologist to prepare leeks—just rinse thoroughly after slicing.”
Prepare: Trim off root end and dark green top leaving the very light green and white portion. Slice lengthwise and rinse layers, or slice into rings and rinse in a colander. After cutting, let sit for five minutes before cooking to enhance their health-promoting qualities.
Storage: Wrap leeks in plastic to contain moisture and prevent other foods from absorbing their odor. They’ll last up to five days or so in the fridge.