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Good Life Garden

Leeks

Allium porrum
Year-round; smaller leeks from midsummer to late fall

In Our Garden


Bandit
Allium ampeloprasum

A blue-green variety of leek, bandit has very thick 12-13 inch shanks that exhibit no bulbing. They are also extremely winter-hardy.

In History

Legend has it that in 640 Welsh warriors led by King Cadwallader (the last Briton king), placed leeks in their hats during battle to distinguish themselves from Saxon enemies.

References to leeks growing in Egypt are found in the Bible, and ancient Egyptians held the leek in such high regard that swearing by this member of the onion family was the same as swearing by one of the gods.

During the Middle Ages leeks were believed to stimulate urination, and, when combined with honey, to clear up catarrh of the chest.

Cultivation

Growing Tips:
A cool season crop, leeks are generally hardy to frosts and light freezes, but it is important to provide them moisture-retentive soil.

Harvesting Tips:
Different varieties of leeks can be harvested practically year round with early varieties ready to harvest from early to mid-fall. Mid season varieties are ready from early to mid winter and late season varieties can be harvested in early to mid spring.

When it is time to harvest your leeks, gently pull them out of the ground with a garden fork to avoid causing any damage.

Why It's Good for You

When you cozy up to a warm bowl of leek soup, know that you’re getting kaempferol, a type of phytochemical which helps ward off many types of cancer.

Did You Know

To keep a balance in your soil, try planting leeks along with peas, as this member of the onion family is a heavy feeder and benefits from nitrogen-producing peas.

On a tight budget? Indulge in the “poor man’s asparagus” as leeks are sometimes referred to in France.

Let's Eat

How to Buy:
Choose firm leeks with stiff, dark green tops and smooth white stalks.

How to Store:
Leeks are best used fresh, but can be kept in the refrigerator for about a week wrapped in a damp towel inside a plastic bag. Smaller leeks should be used within a day or two. Avoid trimming them until just before use.

How to Prepare:
Leeks can be a source of frustration for some as dirt is often lodged between its multiple layers. When preparing larger leeks, cut off the roots, most of the fibrous green tops, and the outermost layers of the vegetable. Dice the leeks and add them to a bowl of water, swishing briefly with your hands to dislodge any dirt. Allow the pieces to sit undisturbed for a few minutes and then carefully remove the leeks with a slotted spoon or tongs to avoid stirring up the particles.

When preparing smaller leeks remove the outermost layer and carefully trim the roots and green tops. Then make a lengthwise cut up the leek starting about two inches from the base. If you cut too close to the leek’s bottom, the layers will fall apart. Finally place the leeks under cool running water to remove any dirt lodged within. Smaller leeks can be roasted or grilled whole.

 

Pest Management


Here is a list of common pests and diseases that may affect your leeks in California. For more information follow the link provided to the University of California Integrated Pest Management website.
  • Onion Leafminer
    These are the small larvae of flies and moths that feed beneath the surface of the leaf, leaving behind signature twisting trails visible to the eye. They rarely cause serious damage to fruits or roots…
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  • Cutworms
    Night-feeding larvae that burrow into the soil during the day make their presence known by severing plant stems and chomping away at the foliage and buds of just about any crop…
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  • Grasshoppers
    While there are over 200 varieties of grasshoppers found in California, only a few are known to cause serious crop damage. They have a preference for young, green plants, and with their complex mouths they are able to tear large chunks of leaves off of plants…
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  • Mites
    These tiny bugs can be hard to detect, and may go not even be noticed until they have left! They come in several varieties and are a common pest to a wide range of vegetables and fruits. They suck the liquid out of plant foliage, and often leave yellowing at the feeding site. Often, plants will recover once the mites have left…
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  • Nematodes
    There are many types of these microscopic roundworms working both below and above the soil in California. The root-feeding kinds are extremely adept at reducing a plant’s ability to uptake water and other soil nutrients, resulting in wilting of the plant above ground…
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  • Onion maggot
    One of three maggot species that work underground in California vegetable crops, the onion maggot destroys seedlings and will continue to work on the onion’s bulb as it expands…
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  • Snails & Slugs
    These garden gastronomes have a notorious taste for succulent flowers, foliage and ripening fruit --- with such a refined taste, it’s no wonder they are so delectable bathed in garlic butter!
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  • Thrips
    Commonly found in gardens and on farms, thrips are a blessing and a burden. While their feeding can cause some scarring to leaves, flowers and fruit surfaces, the effect on overall crop yield is insignificant. Some varieties play a beneficial predatory role by feeding on other insects…
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  • Bacterial soft rot
    This plant disease is characterized by a mushy, watery, foul-smelling rot and is often triggered once diseases or pests have caused initial damage. Once the bacterial attack has begun, internal structure of a vegetable can be reduced to mush in a matter of 3-5 days…
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  • Leaf spot
    This is a fungus that affects the plant leaves. As leaf spot spreads, foliage yellows and curls…
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  • Downy mildew
    Often confused with powdery mildew, this disease does require moisture to produce downy masses of spores. It generally follows moist, cool weather and appears most predominantly on the underside of leaves, though, it may present as yellow or brown spots on the upper side of leaves as well…
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  • Black mold
    Most commonly occurring in the driest parts of California, black mold usually occurs where disease or injury has broken the onion bulb’s skin. Once invaded by black mold, onions can become water-soaked…
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  • Blue mold rot
    This disease causes onion bulbs to become water-soaked over time, and usually initiates during harvest or storage, whereas black mold often begins in the field…
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  • Purple blotch rot
    This generally attacks the leaf blades of an onion, causing yellow or tan and purple lesions to appear…
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  • Pink root
    Rarely a problem on an economic scale, pink root causes roots to (as the name suggests) turn pink. The roots will deepen in color to red and then shrivel up and die, stunting plant growth…
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  • White rot
    Pathogens for this disease lie dormant in the soil. Once they have a host, they cause yellowing of leaf blades, root rot, and a semi-watery bulb. After the roots rot, the plant can be easily removed from the ground…
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