< Vegetables



The leek appealed to those who favored mild tastes and owed its popularity in the United States to those who found onions too sharp on the tongue. The white blanched base of the baton graced a multitude of soups, yet rarely came to the table as a separate dish, aside from a puree or a braised vegetable. Of the two varieties widely cultivated on both sides of the Atlantic during the first half 19th century, the “Narrow-leaved” Scotch leek, or common leek, was the more traditional. The broad-leaved, or “London Flag” leek, was discovered as sport by a gardener in Essex, England, early in the century, and grew to enormous popularity, supplanting the older form in popularity by the 1830s. The latter half of the 19th century saw the introduction of several new varieties, none of which supplanted the popularity of the London Flag. The Yellow Potton was more tender, but the yellowish tinge of the stem hindered its widespread adoption. The short stemmed Large Rouen had an excellent taste, but its thick dark green foliage seemed over-proportioned to the succulent stem. The Little Montagne was a think, small leek for delicate dishes. The Proliferous was an adaptation of the common leek that resisted decomposition and so stored longer than other varieties.

Traditional English cookery featured leeks cooked to smoothness and dressed with white sauce as porridge. People of Welsh descent identified with the green as their national emblem, the leek having been thrust into the hats of Welsh warriors as a mark of identification during their successful repulsion of a Saxon invasion during the sixth century. Both varieties required richly manured soil, deep trenching, and repeated hoeing in the garden if they were to be tall and stout at harvest in the early autumn. They were sown by seed or by an off-set from an older plant in April in a nursery and transplanted in June to the garden bed. Transplanting increased the size of a mature plant. Because taste favored a long blanched stem, soil would be mounded up by a hoe several inches around each stalk. A favorite gardener’s trick to increase the density of leaf growth in the heart of the leek was to chop the tops off the leaves three times over the course of a growing season.

Large Flag    History

- the kind mostly grown; a hardy and useful variety

Musselburgh    History

- a large growing variety, of excellent quality; the true Scotch Leek, mild flavor

Early London    History

- a fine, early variety and easily grown

London Broad Leaf, or Flag    History

- a very strong growing, productive variety, long-stemmed; much used

Leek Salad (Salads & Sauces 1884)    History

Cut into inch pieces the white part of three young, tender leeks; scald one large tomato to remove the skin; when cold, slice it; put into a salad-bowl the leaves of one head of romaine lettuce, add the tomato, then add the leeks; pour over the salad a plain dressing, and sprinkle over all a few tarragon-leaves and send to table. The leek was at one time so much cultivated in England that the name of a garden was leac-ton, and the name of the gardener was leac-ward. (p. 139)

Fried Leeks (Cook’s Own Book 1840)    History

Put them into the stock-pot till about three parts done; then take them out, drain, and soak them in vinegar seasoned in pepper, salt, and cloves; drain them again, stuff the hearts with a force, dip them in batter, and fry them. (p. 109)

Leeks (What to Eat 1863)    History

Clean, wash, and drain; throw them in boiling water with a little salt, boil fifteen minutes, and drain; press on them in the drainer, so as to extract all the water, then chop them fine. Put two ounces of butter in a stewpan; when melted, sprinkle in it a teaspoonful of flour, salt, and pepper, then add the leeks. Stir with a wooden spoon for ten minutes; after tha beat two eggs with milk, and put them in a stewpan; keep stirring fifteen minutes longer, and serve. (p. 184)

Cock-a-Leekie Soup (Modern Household Cookery 1854)    History

Singe, draw, and cut two fowls into nice pieces; trim two or three bunches of fine winter leeks, use the white part only, cut into halves, each half into two, blanch them five minutes in boiling water, having previously washed them well; add the pieces of fowl, with the leeks, to four quarts of gravy stock; set on the fire, and simmer for about two hours, or till tender. If too thick, add a little more stock; season and serve. (p. 32)

Leek Porridge (Lady’s Own Cookery Book 1852)    History

Peel twelve leeks; boil them in water till tender; take them out and put them into a quart of new milk; boil them well; thicken up with oatmeal, and add salt according to the taste. (p. 58).

Soup Puree of Leeks, Viennoise (Harder’s Practical Cookery 1885)    History

Slice fine the white part of one dozen good sized Leeks, and put them into a saucepan, with a piece of butter. Fry them lightly (not long enough to get browned), and then add one or two quarts of broth. When they are well cooked add three quarts of thickened chicken or veal broth. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and a pinch of sugar, and add a faggot of parsley garnished. Let it cook slowly for twenty-five minutes. Then take out the faggot, skim off the grease, rub the soup through a fine sieve, and put it back in the saucepan to keep warm. Before serving add one pint of cream, in which dilute the yolks of eight raw eggs and a piece of butter. Stir it until the butter is melted. Then add some fine chopped chives, and serve it with friend bread crumbs separately. (pp. 179-80).