AskDefine | Define leek

Dictionary Definition



1 plant having a large slender white bulb and flat overlapping dark green leaves; used in cooking; believed derived from the wild Allium ampeloprasum [syn: scallion, Allium porrum]
2 related to onions; white cylindrical bulb and flat dark-green leaves

User Contributed Dictionary





  • , /liːk/, /li:k/
    Rhymes with: -iːk
  • Homophones: leak


  1. A vegetable (Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum) of the same family as the onion, having a bulb and long leaves and with a milder flavour than the onion.







  1. layman, non-clergyman
  2. layman, non-expert, amateur

Derived terms

Verb form

  1. Singular past imperfect and imperative forms of lijken





Extensive Definition

The leek , Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum (L.), also sometimes known as Allium porrum, is a vegetable which belongs, along with the onion and garlic, to the Alliaceae family. Two related vegetables, the elephant garlic and kurrat, are also variant subspecies of Allium ampeloprasum, although different in their uses as food.
The edible part of the leek plant is sometimes called a stem, though technically it is a bundle of leaf sheaths.


Rather than forming a tight bulb like the onion, the leek produces a long cylinder of bundled leaf sheaths which are generally blanched by pushing soil around them (trenching). They are often sold as small seedlings in flats which are started off early in greenhouses, to be planted out as weather permits. Once established in the garden, leeks are hardy; many varieties can be left in the ground during the winter to be harvested as needed.


Leek cultivars can be subdivided in several ways, but the most common types are "summer leeks", intended for harvest in the season when planted, and overwintering leeks, meant to be harvested in the spring of the year following planting. Summer leek types are generally smaller than overwintering types; overwintering types are generally more strongly flavored.


Leeks are easy to grow from seed and tolerate standing in the field for an extended harvest. Leeks usually reach maturity in the autumn months, and they have few pest or disease problems. Leeks can be bunched and harvested early when they are about the size of a finger or pencil, or they can be thinned and allowed to grow to a much larger mature size. Hilling leeks can produce better specimens.


The edible portions of the Leek are the white onion base and light green stalk. The onion-like layers form around a core. The tender core may be eaten, but as the leek ages the core becomes woody and better replanted than eaten. Leeks are an essential ingredient of cock-a-leekie, Leek and Potato Soup and vichyssoise. They can also be used raw in salads, doing especially well when they are the prime ingredient.
Because of their symbolism in Wales (see below), they have come to be used extensively in that country's cuisine, while in the rest of Britain leeks have only come back into favour in the last fifty years or so, having been overlooked for several centuries.

Historical consumption

Dried specimens from archaeological sites in ancient Egypt, as well as wall carvings and drawings, led Zohary and Hopf to conclude that the leek was a part of the Egyptian diet "from at least the 2nd millennium B.C. onwards." They also allude to surviving texts that show it had been also grown in Mesopotamia from the beginning of the 2nd millennium B.C. The leek was the favorite vegetable of the Emperor Nero, who consumed it most often in soup.

Cultural Significance

The leek is one of the national emblems of Wales, whose citizens wear it - or the daffodil - on St. David's Day. According to one legend, King Cadwaladr of Gwynedd ordered his soldiers to identify themselves by wearing the vegetable on their helmets in an ancient battle against the Saxons that took place in a leek field. This story may have been made up by the English poet Michael Drayton, but it is known that the leek has been a symbol of Wales for a long time; Shakespeare, for example, refers to the custom of wearing a leek as an "ancient tradition" in Henry V. In the play, Henry tells Fluellen that he is wearing a leek "for I am Welsh, you know, good countryman". The 1985 and 1990 British One Pound coins bear the design of a leek in a coronet, representing Wales.
Perhaps most visibly however is the leek's use as the Cap badge of the Welsh Guards, a Regiment within the Household Division of the British Army.

See also


External links

leek in Bulgarian: Праз
leek in Catalan: Porro
leek in Czech: Pór
leek in Welsh: Cenhinen
leek in Danish: Porre
leek in German: Porree
leek in Modern Greek (1453-): Πράσο
leek in Spanish: Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum
leek in Basque: Porru
leek in Finnish: Purjo
leek in French: Poireau
leek in Italian: Allium porrum
leek in Japanese: リーキ
leek in Low German: Look
leek in Dutch: Prei
leek in Norwegian: Purre
leek in Polish: Por (roślina)
leek in Portuguese: Alho-porro
leek in Russian: Лук-порей
leek in Northern Sami: Boskalávki
leek in Slovenian: Por
leek in Albanian: Preshi
leek in Swedish: Purjolök
leek in Thai: กระเทียมต้น
leek in Vietnamese: Tỏi tây
leek in Vlaams: Pret
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