Leeks add delicious flavor to dishes and also help fight winter infections, purify the body and protect the heart.
The allium (Allium porrum), although they are usually sold in markets all year round, they are considered the epitome of winter and not only add flavor to many dishes, such as a mild broth or a cold summer soup, but also enrich them with their nutrients and health properties.
Like its relatives garlic and onion, it belongs to the plant family Liliaceae. However, the leaves are long and flat, shaped more like an elongated onion than round, and the flavor is milder.
Origin of leeks
Its origin is in Central Asia and it was already known in ancient Egypt as well as by the Greeks and Romans. Carvings and hieroglyphs of this vegetable have been found in some pyramids, indicating that its use was widespread in the land of the pharaohs.
The story goes that both the Greek philosopher Aristotle and the Roman emperor Nero made great use of this food to strengthen the voice and prevent throat problems.
It was known to many other inhabitants of the Mediterranean basin and was passed on to the Celts by the Romans. It was widely cultivated in the Middle Ages and later spread throughout the world.
Leeks contain a moderate amount of carbohydrates (7.5 g/100 g), little protein (2 g) and a lot of fiber (3 g).
Minerals present include potassium (260 mg), calcium (60 mg), phosphorus (50 mg) and magnesium (18 mg). In addition to sulfur, it also contains iron and trace elements such as selenium, manganese and silicon in smaller quantities.
Contains vitamins C (30 mg) and E (2 mg) as well as vitamins from group B: folic acid (127 µg) and vitamin B6 (0.25 mg), important for the nervous and immune systems.
The sulfur compounds in garlic and onions, which improve blood circulation, fight infections and prevent cancer, are also found in leeks, although in smaller amounts.
Consuming leeks regularly, especially during the natural season, is one way to fortify your diet for the benefit of your entire body.
Leek oil is partially excreted through the lungs and has a beneficial bactericidal effect on colds and bronchitis.
Likewise, the presence of mucus and expectorants helps relieve sore throats, laryngitis, hoarseness and bronchitis.
Since this vegetable has an alkalizing and diuretic effect due to its high potassium and low sodium content, consuming it to treat rheumatism, arthritis or gout can help reduce joint inflammation.
Thanks to its diuretic properties, it helps lower blood pressure. Likewise, alliin, an active ingredient also found in garlic and onions, helps lower blood cholesterol levels, particularly “bad” cholesterol, or LDH.
Folate and polyphenols, in turn, neutralize free radicals. This prevents the formation of atherosclerotic plaques on the artery walls, angina and heart attacks.
It prevents the formation of varicose veins and other venous diseases thanks to its positive effect on blood vessels (maintaining their elasticity) and its fibrinolytic properties (thinning the blood, preventing the formation of blood clots).
Thanks to the antibacterial substances it contains, it helps fight the presence of pathogenic fungi and bacteria. Fiber and mucus also stimulate intestinal transit, relieve constipation and prevent flatulence.
The presence of folic acid contributes to normal fetal development, especially in the first weeks of pregnancy. Most pregnant women take folic acid supplements, but including this vegetable in your diet is equally beneficial.
Leeks in the kitchen
Like onions and garlic, leeks play a very important role in Mediterranean cuisine: prepared with tenderness and care, they have a unique consistency, melt easily in the mouth and exude a delicate aroma.
In addition, this humble vegetable does not need to be cooked for too long, which allows the flavors to harmonize with each other and is very suitable for all types of preparation, from quick and easy pan frying to slow and long stews.
Its taste is very aromatic, which is why its presence in some dishes is considered just a spice, especially in stews made from legumes and vegetables. It has the ability to add flavor to dishes without losing other flavors.
There are different types of leeks that vary in size, texture and taste. For example, fall and winter leeks are denser and have a stronger flavor, while summer leeks tend to be smaller and have a less intense flavor.
How to choose leeks?
Choose leeks with thick, flexible and straight stems, without spots or lumps. If the leaves turn yellow or dry, they may have been stored for too long.
They can be kept raw and refrigerated for 10 days and after cooking for a maximum of two days.
As winter approaches, the white part of the leek shortens and the green part grows. However, the green leaves on the outside have a rich flavor and have many uses, so it would be a shame to throw them away.
The leaves and green parts are ideal for flavoring broths and stews. They taste delicious as a vegetable, cut into thin strips and pan-fried. Prepared in this way, they can be used as a condiment for many recipes, as a garnish for pizza and focaccia, but also as an accompaniment to pasta just before serving.
Leeks are a very easy vegetable to grow in the garden, even in small boxes or pots if you don’t have a lot of space and don’t need a lot of direct sunlight. If you harvest it very fresh, you get its aroma and taste.
Care tasks should take into account their “whitening” so that they become more sensitive at the base.
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