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October Superfood of the Month: Leeks


We use them routinely now, but there was a time when we had NO idea what leeks were!

I have to admit...I used to think leeks were something slimy that came in a jar…I couldn't have been more wrong!

Once we learned that a leek is actually like an oversized green onion, we tried them and we were hooked!

We now snatch them up whenever we find them at the farmers’ market and enjoy them sautéed, grilled – even raw – in a wide variety of great-tasting meals.  They are packed with nutrition, and are worth including in your routine...

 

 

 

...which is why leeks are the October Superfood of the Month!

 

What are leeks?

Leeks are from the same family as onions, shallots, and garlic, but they don’t get near as much attention.  They look like large scallions (aka green onions) and have long white and green cylindrical stalks.  They can range from 6 to 12 inches long and 1 to 2 inches in diameter.  They have tiny “hairs” at the stem end, rather than a bulb.

Leeks have a sweeter and milder taste than onions.  There are several varieties that take anywhere from 50 days to 180 days to mature and become ready for harvest.  They stand up well to cold weather and are generally available year-round, but are best during fall through early spring.

 

Why leeks?

Leeks are loaded with nutrients!  They are a great source of Vitamin K…one cup provides 29% of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin K and only 32 calories.  Leeks also include powerful compounds like kaempferol and quercetin, which make them excellent disease-fighters because they protect our blood vessel linings and act as cancer fighters.  Leeks also contain impressive amounts of antioxidants, which, similar to onions and garlic, help reduce inflammation and protect us from health problems such as type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease and cancer.

 

How do you pick and store them?

Leeks should be firm and straight with dark green ends.  Generally, you will find the smaller leeks to be more tender.  Because larger ones can be tougher and more fibrous, look for leeks that are no larger than 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Consider purchasing similar-sized leeks so they will cook consistently (especially if you are leaving them whole).

You can store leeks unwashed and untrimmed in the refrigerator and they will stay fresh for up to two weeks.  But, keep in mind, leftover cooked leeks will only stay good for a couple days.  If prepared the right way, this won’t be a problem…because they are so good there won’t be any leftovers!

 

What is the trick to rinsing leeks?

Leeks are planted deep into the ground to deprive the stems from sunlight exposure, which keeps the most edible part of leeks white and tender.

But, because of this, leeks can have dirt and sand that gather within their layers.

 

 

 

Don't worry…it's easy to rinse and clean them with these tricks:

Sliced Leeks

  1. Trim the ends, cutting off the dark green tops and leaving the white and light green parts.
  2. Slice the leeks to your desired thickness and place them in a colander.
  3. Rinse with water, tossing with your hand to make sure the dirt is loosened and washed away.
  4. Pat dry and use in your recipe or serve raw.

Whole Leeks

  1. Trim the ends, cutting off the dark green tops and leaving the white and light green parts.
  2. Slice lengthwise, keeping layers intact.
  3. Rinse the halves with water, slightly separating layers to remove any dirt.
  4. Pat dry and use in your recipe.

NOTE:  The dark green parts of leeks are a great addition if you make your own broth at home.  So, don’t throw them away -- put them in a freezer bag with your other veggie “scraps” until broth-making day arrives.

 

How do you use leeks?

Leeks are great raw, sliced and added to salads, or they can be sautéed, added to stir fry dishes, used in soups and stews…and so much more!  When raw, they add a nice crunch and texture to your meal.  Like shallots, you can substitute leeks when a recipe calls for onions, and they are a great substitute for green onions.  Whole leeks are excellent on the grill, or braised until tender.  Try some of these delicious ideas:

 

 

Consider adding this fantastic veggie to your routine...and, take on the challenge to enjoy leeks in different ways at least once a week during the month of October!

Your health, and your family's health, will thank you!

Are you already a fan of leeks?  

What is your favorite way to enjoy them?

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