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Hey, Harper! Whatcha Doing With All Those Leeks?!

Leeks. Why do I cook with, and pay more for, leeks?

Leeks are a member of the allium family. This family includes the more often, locally used onion, garlic, green onion and chives.

When they are cooked they flavour a dish with an oniony taste that is much milder than onion or garlic, a bit sweet, and they become kind of buttery and creamy. Because of this creaminess they are great for keeping calories a little lower while still making a dish seem velvety, Leeks are a diuretic, so have been used for centuries for weight loss, as well as having all the health benefits of the allium family. But for me, they are a comfort food. A quiet, subtle, sweet and creamy accompaniment to other subtle foods. Recently I made a leek and white bean dish with lemon shrimp in which the leeks did some of their best work, adding body and aroma without overpowering the other ingredients and the subtle sweetness of the shrimp.

But you must be careful!! Leeks are often grown in sand, and can trap sand in their layers. So the leek must be well cleaned. There are many ways to clean a leek; Google will give you dozens of suggestions. But the easiest way if you do not need them to be whole or halved lengthways, is to simply slice and swish in a lot of water. The sand will sink, and you will be guaranteed no nasty crunch in your supper.

Also! The leek is one of the national emblems of Wales, and is a big player in St. David's Day celebrations. Lucky for us, St. David's Day falls on March 1. So you have one day to run out and get some leeks to usher in March, Spring, and perhaps the sunshine that we are so missing this last day of February! Vive la leek.

What I know for sure: Leeks are easy to grow and love to grow with strawberries. They naturally repel many of the pesky pests that bother strawberries. (If only my garden wasn't 90 percent clay...)

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