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Allium porrum

Allium porrum
Oversized scallions
Synonym(s) Allium ampeloprasum v. porrum
Common name leek
Family alliaceae
Life cycle perennial
Flowers white (June)
Size 4'
Light sun-part shade

As vegetable gardeners, we're loyal to the leek. Surprisingly, not everybody is familiar with this versatile onion relative, which we use in stews, stir fries, casseroles, and whenever some other dish needs a mild touch of onion. I start seed indoors in March, and set them out in early May. They are still small then, and take their time getting established and gaining some size. Not until fall are they ready to be harvested; we usually only manage to use a few by the time the first freezes hit. Luckily, leeks are perennial and fairly hardy, so we continue to harvest through late fall. Most years, the ones we don't get around to are in a sorry state by early spring, but this year we had a mild winter, and the plants came through just fine. But when we harvested some this spring, we learned how those awful store-bought leeks with the useless solid core come about - they must be second-year plants! Still, the overwintering maneuvre gave us a chance to admire the flowering habits of the plant. Hardly stunning florally, they have a simple form and sleek line that lends them an unexpected elegance.

We left this plant behind in our Pennsylvania garden (and wish it well); we don't grow it in Houston.

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