In the past several months, people have started massively growing various cultures in their home yards and gardens. Leeks are no exception. Harvesting and storing leeks has become a commonly asked question among the new gardeners – or the older ones that want to expand the diversity of their garden. Often they’re also interested in how to preserve leeks.
One of the main reasons why leeks have become popular, together with the onions, and the garlic, is that they do not take countless hours to be taken care of. And in today’s hectic world, when we have thousands of daily tasks and worries, this is a win-win combination.
Like the onion and the garlic, the leeks can as well be used for culinary means. Leeks are a great addition to some meals such as soups, in some french dishes, or they can be simply sauteed. With leeks added to your dishes, they can alter the taste of it a bit, but in a good way of course. In terms of health benefits, since leeks belong to the same family as garlic and onions, they have the same beneficial nutrients as they have but they are not so potent though.
In this article, we will speak about harvesting leeks: when to harvest leeks, how to do that, how to grow big leeks, but also how to harvest leek seeds. We will also teach you how to identify good quality leeks. As part of countless dishes around the world, they are a staple in many kitchens, and undoubtedly they will make your meal tastier. However, let’s find out first how to grow and harvest them.
How to Grow Leeks?
Considered a vegetable, the leek is part of the Allium genus, together with the garlic, the onion, the chive, the shallot, and many other representatives. They are all one of the main ingredients in various dishes around the world, providing a wonderful flavor to many dishes.
Their popularity of leeks in many cuisines can maybe be traced to the fact that they are rather easy and simple to grow from seed. They are also not very much demanding on their environment – leeks can grow pretty much everywhere that onions grow.
They are fairly easy to maintain and do not require some special requirements out of the ordinary. The only thing you need to keep in mind is that the soil where you plant the seeds should be well-drained and loose.
You will need to keep in touch with the climate before prepping yourself for planting any leeks in your garden. Depending on the climate you live in, say you live in a mild climate area, you can safely plant your leeks late in the year and expect a harvest by the spring season. However, if you live in a climate with particularly harsh winters, then you may want to plant your leeks as soon as the ground is soft enough for planting. We will discuss this detail further in the article.
Sow your leeks deep into the soil and place it in a sunny spot. If you live in a climate that has harsh winters, then you may want to start sowing your seeds inside your home or at a greenhouse 6 weeks before the last frost. Leeks seeds best germinate at a temperature of 77 °F (25 °C), so place them at a sunny spot. Later on, after winter passes, you may transplant the leeks to your garden by then. Keep the moist soil when doing this step.
Plant your leeks at least 6 inches deep and 6 inches apart when transplanting it to your garden. After which cover it with soi and pat on it gently. Make sure that the roots are thoroughly covered and soil reaching the clef where the leaves spread apart.
When to Harvest Leeks?
The maturity of the leeks comes around the fall months – starting from September onwards. They have an extended harvesting time, and the harvest can last throughout the entire winter – up until early spring (March). However, keep in mind that this is applicable for more mild climates, where winters tend to not be too freezing. If there is regular frost in the place where you live, and your leeks are not protected with a glasshouse, then you might consider harvesting them at the earliest convenience possible.
This applies to regular leek types. With technological advancement, hybrid types have been created, such as the “Winter Giant” type, that can withstand rather cold temperatures (around 20 degrees Fahrenheit, or -6 degrees Celsius). If you live in a place with colder winters, make sure to ask for these types of leeks.
You can start with the harvest as soon as you notice that their stem is around 7-8cm (3-3.5 inches) long (or longer) – more or less a pencil size. Their top growth is called a flag. The flag should have a darker color at this point (a somewhat green/blue/purple one). You have two options when harvesting leeks:
- Start harvesting at the very beginning, while their body is slim – these leeks have a stronger taste;
- Thin the leeks at the beginning of the harvesting season, but don’t harvest them – this will allow them to mature and grow more. These leeks are having a milder taste.
How to Harvest Leeks
Despite your instinct to pull the leek from the ground, it is not as easy as it seems when you see them on the surface. Leeks have a rather large and expanding system of roots, and apart from causing problems to your muscles, it can also damage the surrounding plants. Digging them out might definitely be a better solution.
A good tip is to use a garden fork and loose the soil around the plant before you start digging and harvesting the leeks. When you have completed that, you can gently start pulling and twisting the leeks from the soil until they come out. No excessive force is needed if all these requirements are completed.
If you want to keep growing and harvesting leeks in the years to come, make sure that you select several of the best stalks of leek (the healthiest-looking ones, and the ones with the fattest stalks) and let them grow a leek flower. Their flowers are very similar to the onion and garlic ones.
The insects will eventually pollinate these stalks, and the flower head will be full of small, black seeds, that resemble very much the onion seeds. You can either place a bag or a container below the stalks that can collect the seeds when they start drying and falling, or if you live in colder climates, you can cut the stalk and bring the plant indoors, and put it on a piece of paper, waiting for the seeds to dry. Make sure the room you’re keeping the stalks in is not too humid and not too dry and it has proper air ventilation. After the seeds are out, collect them and store them in a paper envelope.
How to Store and Preserve Leeks
The first step after harvesting the leeks is to clean them thoroughly – they probably still have a lot of soil on them. You can either use them immediately, as they have the most flavor when they are fresh or preserve them for later.
You can preserve leeks by wrapping them in damp paper towels and then put them in a plastic bag that had been previously perforated. This way, you can extend their life for a week, up to 10 days in the refrigerator. Make sure to trim their roots and to wash them thoroughly before storing them.
It is best if the leeks are stored at 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit), in high humidity. This way, their shelf life is extended significantly. The moment they are exposed to a warmer temperature, they start to yellow and eventually decay.
If you’re not up for a lot of effort, while still growing homemade veggies, leeks are a great solution for you. Their upkeep is rather simple and it is not time-consuming, as with many other vegetables and plants that require almost constant attention.
Pro tip: make a checklist of all the things required for your leeks to grow normally – the temperature, the water, the weather conditions. You can make these small checklists with every plant you are growing, in order to make sure that all the conditions for their proper growth are met.
Harvesting leeks is also a rather simple task – just make sure you do not use force and damage them unnecessarily. With a little effort and gentle pulling, they will be out in no time. Of course, if you’re planning on growing some more of these delicious veggies next year, make sure to keep several of the healthier-looking plants and let them flower, so you can collect the seeds later.
Now that you have learned how to harvest your leeks, do you have any questions or tips you would like to share? Or any questions perhaps? Comment below! We also offer different tutorials as well such as When to Harvest Lettuce and How To Prune Zucchini.