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Leeks are believed to come from the eastern Mediterranean region and have been cultivated since ancient times. They belong to the onion family, which also includes common onions, garlic, chives and salad onions. The leaves form a compact shaft, the characteristic appearance of leeks. Normally, leeks are only to some extent onion-shaped; straight stems are more typical.

Leeks are available throughout the year but the focus for marketing is traditionally in the period from late summer through the winter and into early summer. The main supply comes from the Netherlands, Belgium and France. But leeks of excellent quality can also be produced in Germany. Because of the balanced climate and the light and humus-rich soil, North Germany lends itself perfectly to the cultivation of leeks. Deep soil tilling and deep planting is important so that the leeks form sufficiently long stems. The white part of the leek stem is ideally controlled by soil tilling during the first weeks of cultivation. Leek types are partly frost-hardy and with careful cultivar selection, the supply can be guaranteed from German cultivation throughout the year.

Download: Crop calendar

Thanks to their varied preparation possibilities, leeks offer diversity on the menu: cooked, steamed, sautéed or as a gratin, in stews and casseroles, in quiches or as a tasty accompaniment to fish or meat, they are delicious and healthy. They can be deliciously finished and seasoned with a little butter, cream, crème fraiche or parmesan. Furthermore, leeks are used together with carrots and celery as so-called "soup greens" and are an indispensible ingredient for any stew.

Tip: the green leaves require a longer cooking time than white onion parts and should therefore be first in the pot.

Careful washing is very important in the preparation of leeks as the white parts grow underground and can be gritty. Recommended here is a lengthwise incision, deep into the heart of the stem. This enables the individual layers to be fanned out and easily cleaned but retains the stem shape.

Leeks should be kept in the vegetable drawer of the fridge. Above all, cut leeks should be packed into food storage boxes as they are quick to transfer their flavour to flavour-sensitive foods, such as butter. Furthermore, leeks should not be stored close to pears or apples as they react sensitively to the ripening gas ethylene.

Recipe suggestion: Leek au Gratin

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