Saturday, May 14, 2011

The glory of leeks

by June

Fortunately, goats don't eat leeks. They do eat kale—bite, gulp, gone. Chewing as they went, Buttercup and Clover explored the garden one day this spring. Oh, the girls and I flapped along behind them, waving and yelping and shooing them toward the gate. But still they managed to munch through blueberry shoots and raspberry leaves and the lovely ruffled Beedy's Camden kale that survived our  harsh winter.
2010, when the leeks were at their headiest
Friends joke that goats will eat anything. We reply glumly that mostly they just want to eat what we want to eat. But they eat faster.

Somehow they spared the Bleu de Solaize leeks that stood through the snow. Lucky for us! (Shhhh....don't tell the goats what they missed.)

Leeks are one of my favorite things to grow. It's hard to purchase them the way I love them—the size of a pencil. And it is even harder to find something that is so gorgeous in all its incarnations and so friendly to the bees. I always let some go to flower.

We are late with our garden this year because the snows were slow to melt, and we had already determined to dismantle the old raised beds and build them higher and stronger. We're also enhancing the fence to dissuade woodchucks and, ahem, certain members of the family who can't control their appetites when they come nose-to-leaf with a goody. Ours has been the ugliest garden on the planet, swathed in chicken wire and crowded and... Out with all that. But this transformation has meant that some things are behind sprouting schedule (and the blog and our blog friends have been sorrowfully neglected).

Fern and I finally got the leek seedlings and some seeds planted this week. We always put out seedling King Richard or Lincoln leeks for summer eating. But we also plant Fedco's Bleu de Solaize seeds. They grow all summer, then overwinter with nothing but snow as a blanket. In the spring, they are always one of our first meals from the garden (even this frigid year and despite the goats).

One of the simplest ways we prepare them is that old French favorite: Leeks Vinaigrette. My new favorite recipe is from my new favorite cookbook, Around My French Table. It calls for walnut oil in the vinaigrette, and...swoon.

We ease a double fistful of slender leeks out of the garden, then trim their roots, strip their outer leaves and soak them in water. I don't tie them in bundles (as most recipes suggest) but just lay them into salted, boiling water (often in a shallow skillet).

While they cook, I shake up a jar containing:

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (or champagne)
2 tablespoons walnut oil (this is Dorie Greenspan's inspired variation)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
ground pepper

When they are absolutely tender (less than ten minutes when they are so fresh and thin), I fish them out of the water and douse them in the vinaigrette. They soak it up as they cool.

Eating leeks in vinaigrette is almost as much a celebration of spring as planting the seeds that will be next spring's feast.

Happy gardening and cooking, dear friends! We'll be back soon with more on the goats and the little...waddlers we are expecting! And we'll be skipping over your way for more news and to catch up on your gardens and kitchens and families, but please sing out here too. Happy spring at last!


GretchenJoanna said...

I just planted some leek starts, my first attempt to grow these most beloved vegetables. God bless the little things!

The Hip Homemaker said...

This is my first year doing leeks as well. I don't cook with them much now, but I am excited about the possibilities.

I also redid my garden this year and I understand the delayed start. Good to see you posting again!

Dawn Chandler said...

I'm a new subscriber (as of yesterday!) So thrilled to have you in my inbox this morning. What beautiful photography! We have goats that live next door to us and we just love watching them play and frolic in the field. Thank you so much for sharing!!

JGH said...

Yay! a new post from June, finally! Always a struggle to get the animals and vegetables to co-exist, right? I had to put bird netting over my beds this year to keep the chickens out. I'm trying different things, including a foot-high fence. I've been thinking getting goats too, but will take this post as a warning :)

Your leek photos are just beautiful - thanks for the recipe, too.

Linda said...

Hello June, nice to see you posting. I know about life being busy elsewhere!
Love your Bleu de Solaise leeks. I hope to grow these this winter - read about their colour and how they feature in the classic French potager and was hooked.
You can buy pencil-thin leeks in some up-market supermarkets here, but you pay for the gourmet touch. Why do that when you can grow your own.
And like you I always leave some leeks or onions to flower. The bees need all the help they can get.
Good luck controlling your goats!

tom | tall clover farm said...

I was just thinking of your fine advice from last year, don't plant tomatoes before the black locust trees leaf out. Mine are just starting to do so and my little tomatoes plants are anxious to get in the ground, provided I supply them with down comforters.

Tania said...

Oh Joy! News from Four Green Acres! Now *that* is something to celebrate this rain-filled spring day, er, week. Naughty goats. Good thing they are so CUTE. : >

We'll get our DeerBusters fence up and then we, too, can plant. We've got a lovely herd of 8 deer....

Thanks for posting!

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

Perhaps we should trade places. Last year the farmer's markets here only stocked 'baby leeks'. In huff I'd grumble something along the line of 'what good is a baby leek?'. I prefer the monsters, at least when I'm substituting them for onion, or grilling them on the BBQ. Baby leeks are sweet, and you're right, not often available (unless you're specifically looking for large leeks ;). I'm excited to try the Bleu de Solaize leeks this year, as we picked up some seed from SSE. I hope they live up to their reputation!

Nan said...

i've heard of people overwintering leeks, and it seems like we tried a long time ago, but I'm thinking I might try again after reading your post. Thank you! And don't get me going on goats. :<)

EvoOrganic said...

Beautiful pictures! Thanks for posting. I'll have to try out your recipe too :)

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

We are a new fan of leek. Now we know what to do with our pencil size leek thanks to you. We tried to collect some seeds from our over-wintered leek last spring but bee pollination was not that good so we had small amount of seeds collected.

Lisa said...

I'm not familiar with Leek. Maybe because it's not more often planted in my country, Philippines.

I like the photos posted.

Lisa from Acoustic Guitar Lessons

jelli said...

Hi. Try frying leek scapes (buds before they open) in a little olive oil and seasoning - delicious! Brit gardener :)

Otehlia said...

I just stumbled on your blog, and love it!Gorgeous pictures, stories and recipes. Thanks for the inspiration. I was looking fora sungold tomato jam recipe and found it.

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