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Vermont Garden Journal: Leeks

09/14/12 5:55PM By Charlie Nardozzi
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I'm Charlie Nardozzi and this is the Vermont Garden Journal. Called the poor man's asparagus, by the French, leeks are a seldom used, but delicious vegetable. Leeks originated around the Mediterranean and have been eaten for more than 3000 years. They are mentioned in the Bible and King Nero of Rome ate leeks because he thought they improved his singing voice. Leek growing spread throughout Europe and Britain and remains popular there. They became the national simple of Wales. King Cadwallader had his men wear leeks in their hats as they marched into war a symbol of Welch army.

I've grown leeks for years as one of my "plant it and forget about it" vegetables. I plant in spring, keep them watered and weeded as with the rest of the garden, but don't pay any more attention to them until now when they are in their glory and sweetening up with the cool fall weather. I start harvesting in September and October and go into winter. I've even had leeks freeze solid in the garden, thaw them out and then had them for dinner that night. The flavor is milder than onions and they taste great chopped in salads, sauteed, roasted or to made into my favorite dish, potato-leek soup.

When selecting varieties look for early ones that mature in short season areas such as 'King Richard' or hardy types that can withstand the cold such as 'Tadorna'. I particular like 'Tardorna' for it's blue-green foliage. It's stunning in the garden. Plant seedlings in spring  in furrows on top of raised beds. Fill in the furrows as they grow and hill them to get more of the mild flavored, white shaft to develop. Keep well watered and weeded. Leeks have few insect or disease problems.

For this week's tip, now is a good time to fertilize your lawn with a low or no phosphorous organic fertilizer. Look for a fertilizer with approximately a 3-1-2 nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium ratio. Fall fertilizing helps build stronger grass roots and a thicker lawn for spring.

Next week on the Vermont Garden Journal, I'll be talking about fall brambles. For now, I'll be seeing you in the garden!

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