Leeks in basket

Fact file: leeks

Find out more about delicious leeks, including how they became the national symbol of Wales.

Tall, handsome leeks are easy-to-grow vegetables, standing through the harshest winter until you’re ready to enjoy them.

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When growing leeks, keep an eye out for the telltale signs of leek rust – small, orange spots that cover the foliage. Here’s how to deal with leek rust if spotted. 

For full growing advice, take a look at our project on how to grow leeks from seed. 

Discover facts, growing advice and more in this leek fact file. 

When growing leeks, keep an eye out for the telltale signs of leek rust.

Did you know…

According to legend, the leek became the national symbol of Wales after St David told his soldiers to wear leeks on their helmets so they could recognise their own men in battle. The Saxons they were fighting, who had no such mark, attacked each other and lost.

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Nutrition

Leeks are packed with kaempferol, which reduces the risk of cancer and protects against heart disease. They’re also high in vitamins A and K, which are essential for strong bones.

How to grow

Sow direct into shallow drills in damp, free-draining soil in a sunny spot, thinning seedlings to 15cm apart. For longer white shanks, transplant seedlings in June, making a 10cm-deep hole with a dibber and dropping in each seedling. Water in well to settle the roots, but don’t backfill with soil. Water during dry spells.

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Harvest

Lever leeks out of the ground with a fork once the shaft reaches about 3cm in diameter. You can leave them in the ground over winter and harvest whenever needed – mulch with straw to prevent the soil freezing, so you can still harvest them easily.

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Store

There’s little need to store leeks, just lift as required. If you have to clear the crop early, heel your leeks in: dig a trench, stand the leeks in it and heap soil loosely to halfway up the stems. They’ll stay in good condition like this for months.

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Leek recipe ideas

  • Salmon and leek parcels
  • Leek and cheese tart
  • Cheese, leek and potato pasties
  • Leek and chicken hotpot
  • Leek, taleggio and thyme pie
  • Leek and potato risotto
  • Creamed leeks with walnut and thyme crumble
  • Potato, leek and Gruyère soup