Thursday, October 31, 2013

Here are the notes from a short talk I gave to the TSGS garden club last weekend on Leeks


Scientific name = Allium ampeloprasum.
related to garlic onions and shallots - ALLIUM vegetables
Allium is latin name for garlic

The edible part = long white cylindrical stalk of layers of tightly wrapped leaves. = a pseudostem white base is called the shank
about 300mm high and 50mm in diameter
more delicate and subtle flavour cf onions

wild leeks = ramps – smaller in size and have stronger flavour

?native to Central Asia


Dried specimens found in archeological sites in Egypt along with wall carvings and drawings - about 2000 BC

Ancient Greeks - “prasa” In Homer's odessey Odysseus returns to Ithaca to find his father digging and said to him – There is never a plant, neither a fig tree nor yet a grapevine nor love nor pear tree nor leek bed uncared for in your garden

They were prized by Romans for supposed beneficial effect on the throat – Nero supposedly ate Leeks everyday to make his voice stronger

English word Leek is a corruption Latin "Loch" – medicine licked to cure a sore throat

Romans introduced Leeks to UK where they became the national emblem of Wales after they were used in a battle in 1620 as an id on the Welsh soldiers caps. Still appears in the cap badge of the Welsh guards
Introduced into Australia with the First Fleet

French call leeks poireau = simpleton = poor mans asparagus. Agatha Christie named her most famous char Poirot after the leek

Leek is a key ingredient in some famous soups – vichyssoise
and Scottish cock-a-leekie soup


Like rich well drained soil but actually hardy and pest free
Main disadvantage is they take about 6 months to be ready for harvesting
Can be cut off at ground level and will regrow
biannual - two years to flower
planting  - drop into a hole with leaves showing  -do not fill the hole in

Medical : Fructans and Akkermansia mucinophilia - Obesity and Diabetes

Defn – fructans are chains of fructose with a glucose on the end and are not digestible in the stomach and small intestine -however bacteria in our colon can digest them

There is increasing evidence that our gut bacteria have a significant effect on our health - they seem to influence our metabolism and energy balance

Obesity and diabetes are characterised by altered gut microbes, inflammation and disruption in the gut lining.

Akkermansia mucinophilia seems to be a key player

There is an inverse correlation with the presence of this bacteria and body weight in humans - ie less AM → more obese

- when present in good numbers it controls gut barrier function, improves glucose homeostasis and reduces fat storage around the abdomen.

Fructans increase the abundance of Akk M by >100 fold

How does all this tie in with Leeks ?

Fructans especially occur in Leeks onions garlic asparagus yacon artichokes jicama chicory and some other foods

Thus a way to improve your metabolism and weight is to eat these sort of vegetables nearly every day