From Roman emperors to Welsh warriors, leeks have an ancient and honorable place in vegetable history.
A member of the Allium family, the same as onions and garlic, Leeks are native to Central Asia and are now harvested across the world. Having run the gamut of culinary opinions from a delicacy for emperors to the “poor man’s asparagus” and back again, leeks are a versatile and hardy vegetable. Cold-resistant, leeks can survive freezing solid and then thawing again. Their flavor even improves after frost. Leeks are known to lower cholesterol levels as well as blood pressure, and were prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans for their throat-soothing effects. In fact the Roman emperor Nero used to eat leeks every day to maintain his singing voice! They are also a national emblem of Wales, having once been worn by Welsh soldiers in battle to distinguish themselves from the Saxons. Commonly used in soups, leeks offer a subtler and sweeter flavor than to that of onions.
Leeks can last in a refrigerator for up to one week but should be kept inside a loosely sealed plastic bag, as their odor can be absorbed by soft fruits. They should be stored with the tough green tops removed, but leaves still attached.