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Leeks

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 a bundle of leaf sheaths which is sometimes called a stem or stalk.

Cuisine
The edible portions of the leek are the white onion base and light green stalk. The dark green portion is usually discarded since it has less flavor. As the leek grows, this part becomes woody and very chewy. One of the most popular uses for the whites and light green stalks is for adding flavor to stock. Chefs rarely use the darker part of the leek for stock because of its bitterness. However, a few leaves are sometimes tied with twine and other herbs to form a bouquet garni.

Leek has a mild onion-like taste, less bitter than scallion. The taste might be described as a mixture of mild onion and cucumber, with a fresh smell similar to scallion. In its raw state, the vegetable is crunchy and firm.

Leek is typically chopped into slices 5 - 10 mm thick. The slices have a tendency to fall apart, due to the layered structure of the leek. There are different ways of preparing the vegetable:

  • Boiled, which turns it soft and mild in taste.
  • Fried, which leaves it more crunchy and preserves the taste.
  • Raw, which can be used in salads, doing especially well when they are the prime ingredient.

Leeks are an ingredient of cock-a-leekie soup, leek and potato soup and vichyssoise, along with leek soup.

Because of their symbolism in Wales, they have come to be used extensively in that country's cuisine.  Elsewhere in Britain, leeks have come back into favour only in the last fifty years or so, having been overlooked for several centuries.

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