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January Plant of the Month: Leeks

By Mary Townsley

Leeks (Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum) are related to onions and garlic. Rather than forming bulbs, leek leaves adhere to one another at the basal growing plate to form a pseudostem or stalk. Time planting so that leeks mature during cooler times of the year, growing from seedlings or seed (more cultivar options). A sunny location, nutrient rich well-draining soil, regular watering, and attention to weeding are important. Blanching, which makes the stalk white and tender, is accomplished by hilling up dirt around the stalk or by transplanting seedlings into a 6-inch-deep hole made by a dibber. Just water in and let the leeks grow--the hole will fill in around the leeks over time. Leeks can be eaten at any stage of growth, though the stalk diameter will not increase once scapes (flower stalks) have developed. Scapes are edible, but if left to bloom, the inflorescence will attract pollinators. Stalks at this point may become somewhat woody and bitter.

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