Even as a long term homesteader, it is easy for me to be overwhelmed by my list of things to do. So I am always looking for ways to let the garden work for me rather than me work for the garden. Leeks are a great example. Without the need for a root cellar or lots of refrigerator space, leeks (like mulched carrots, parsnips and protected winter greens) spend their winter directly in the garden. We’re able to harvest leeks well beyond the frost to enjoy winter crop diversity with minimal effort throughout the year.
Our leek success starts with choosing the right seeds for us. For the last few years, I have been growing Bleu de Solaize Leeks which overwinter without mulching in zone 5 (mulch needed in zone 4). This means that I start leek seeds inside in January, transplant them to the garden in the spring, and my only maintenance for them until fall is weeding.
Leeks sweeten up with frost, so once fall arrives, we slowly start to harvest them to add an unparalleled taste to our cold weather soups. When the ground freezes hard for winter you’ll find that the leeks will shred in your hands if you try to pull them up. It’s best to wait for those warmer days when there’s a bit of thawing. There is nothing more satisfying as walking out to the garden on a mild winter day and digging up fresh food for your kitchen table. By the time you return to the wood stove you are ready for warming, but you have also done an important homesteading chore. It is as simple as that.
Leeks are one of the few seeds that need to be started in January. This gives me a reason to put my hands in the soil and dream of spring while the cold and snow are creeping into cracks in the walls. In this way, the chores of the homestead provide for a much needed peace.
Are you ready to dream into reality leeks for next winter? Put some seeds in a pot and watch them germinate.
Our Sustainable Family Recipe: Butternut squash bisque with sautéed leeks.