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Luscious Leeks: A Little Love Is All They Need

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Luscious Leeks: A Little Love Is All They Need

Do your leeks look like shriveled spring onions? Do their leaves look droopy and dried-up? Are you sick of hearing about your neighbour's legendary leeks and how hardy and easy to plant they are?

Well, let me tell you a little secret.

For every person harvesting a bumper crop, there is another tearing their hair out over a stunted succession of shriveled leeks. The secret is simple. A little love goes a long way for luscious leeks.

They might be a little finicky but if you follow my three top tips and give them a bit of special attention, come May/June you'll reap the rewards with succulent, mouth-watering leeks right out of your own garden. Plus, for all those wannabe Master Chefs, I've also included a recipe for braising leeks.

So let's get started.

First, pick up your Awapuni leek seedlings from Bunnings, the Warehouse or your local supermarket when you're next out. Alternatively, you can order your seedlings from www.awapuni.co.nz and have them delivered directly to your door. Each bundle has nine plants in it and all orders are dispatched from Awapuni on Tuesdays.

Tip 1: leeks love the limelight. So make sure you plant them in a well drained and sunny position. But they also like the sweeter things in life. So if your soil is a bit acidic or you've had a bit of rain lately, add some lime to the soil a few days before you plant to help raise its pH level.

And, if you want to give them a really good head start, add a general fertiliser, such as nitrophoska blue, to the soil prior to planting. This will encourage growth and ensure lovely, luscious leeks come harvest.

Once you have chosen your location and prepared the soil, dig a small trench. Next, place the seedlings in the trench, approximately 10cms apart. Leeks need space to expand, and grow best when planted in rows.

Fill in the trench with soil to the top of the stems, leaving the leaves at the top exposed. Now, give your leeks a light water. Try to keep the soil constantly moist, without being too wet.

Tip 2: leeks are a little fussy. They loath water-logged conditions but need constant moisture. So, for the first few weeks after planting, you will need to check on the soil every couple of days until they are well established.

As your plants grow, regularly fold in the soil around the stems. Doing this will ensure they increase in size and will help to achieve white, chunky, stems.

Tip 3: they dislike tightly compressed soil. Hoeing the soil gently on a regular basis will keep the soil light and fluffy and your leeks happy.

In approximately three to four months you'll know whether your earlier pandering to plants has paid off. A successful harvest will produce leeks approximately 15cm tall and 5cm wide - perfect for a winter stew, casserole or as a single dish to add to a Sunday roast.

For a quick, cheap and simple dish why not try succulent braised leeks. Simply wash and trim approximately six large leeks. Next, take off the coarse outer leaves and chop off the bottom-most part of the stem.

Now, cut your leeks into large uniform chunks and place in an oven dish with 3-4 tablespoons of butter, 2 tablespoons of water, and salt and pepper to taste. If you would like to add more leeks, simply increase the amount of butter you use.

Alternatively, if you would like to opt for a more waist-line friendly meal, you can use olive oil in combination with, or instead of butter.

Finally, place a lid on your oven dish and bake at 180 degrees for approximately 40 minutes, or until the leeks are soft and tender, and enjoy!

Tod Palenski - Awapuni Nurseries

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